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NTSB voices commitment to fighting fatigue in conjunction with National Sleep Awareness Week (3/9)

March 9, 2009
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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), in recognition of National Sleep Awareness Week, reiterates its commitment to eliminating human fatigue in the transportation industry, according to an NTSB press release.

The Safety Board has long been concerned about the effect of human fatigue in transportation and the consequences of fatigue on those who perform critical functions in all modes of transportation. “Fatigue in transportation presents unnecessary risks to the traveling public,” said NTSB Board Member Deborah Hersman. “Fatigue can impair a person behind the wheel or at the helm much like alcohol or other drugs. We must ensure that as much as possible is being done to protect our transportation system from the insidious effect of human fatigue,” Hersman said.

The Safety Board continues to advocate setting work hour limits based on fatigue research, circadian rhythms, and sleep rest requirements that will reduce unnecessary risk to the traveling public.

Last year, the NTSB recommended that the FAA develop guidance, based on empirical and scientific evidence, for operators to establish fatigue management systems, including information about the content and implementation of these systems. Furthermore, the Board also made a recommendation to develop and use a methodology that will continually assess the effectiveness of fatigue management systems implemented by operators, including their ability to improve sleep and alertness, mitigate performance errors, and prevent incidents and accidents.

Since 1972, the NTSB has issued over 100 fatigue related recommendations in all modes of transportation. Human fatigue and hours-of-service are issues that have been on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of safety improvements the Board believes will have the greatest impact on transportation safety. However, the Board voted to remove fatigue in the railroad industry from the Most Wanted List last year after the passage of the Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which addressed railroad hours-of-service limits and established fatigue management requirements. Human Fatigue in the aviation, marine, and pipeline industries remain on the Federal Most Wanted List.

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