Good quality sleep is critical for people working onboard and in this context, shipping organizations need to take the first step and implement control measures in order to minimize any interruptions to seafarers’ sleep.
Since the best way to control the health and safety risks arising from fatigue is to eliminate the factors causing fatigue at the source, Module 2 in IMO Guidelines recommends strategies for the organizations to manage fatigue related risks.
Environmental control measures may include, but are not limited to:
- adequate facilities for rest, sleep and meal breaks and other essential requirements, such as bathroom facilities and personal storage;
- making sleeping areas darker, quieter and more comfortable and increasing lighting in certain areas of the ship, such as:
- providing a dark sleeping atmosphere using blackout blinds for portholes or berths in sleeping spaces;
- installing insulation baffles over cabin door louvres;
- improving air conditioning (ambient temperature) and air flow; and
- supplying good quality and comfortable bedding such as mattresses and pillows;
- making sleeping spaces, including their location, a priority in retrofitting and new ship construction; and
- ensuring adequate personal storage space is available for seafarers’ personal effects.
Procedural and operational control measures may include, but are not limited to:
- increasing access to healthier food choices by ensuring nutritious food is served on board;
- providing information and advice on healthy eating and physical well-being;
- making exercise equipment and facilities available to seafarers;
- providing and maintaining a quiet atmosphere for sleep; develop a “do not disturb” policy for sleeping seafarers;
- where practicable, calls for drills should be conducted in a manner that minimizes the disturbance of rest periods as they can be extremely disruptive;
- putting in place short breaks within duty periods, including napping policies;
- ensuring ship routines such as meal times are commensurate with seafarer
- working schedules; this includes providing personnel working at night with appropriate meal choices;
- providing access to counselling services to assist in any issues arising from the disruption to individual, family or social patterns and shipboard-related aspects; implement a consistent stress management programme;
- have a policy in place to support seafarers experiencing elevated levels of workload;
- if possible, avoid assigning seasick and ill seafarers shipboard work;
- if possible, provide all seafarers with shipboard phone, internet and email access; and
- if possible, ensure that maintenance work does not disrupt personnel sleeping.
Incorporating fatigue measures in ship design
With respect to accommodation, consideration should be given to: ensuring cabins are cool, quiet, dark and well ventilated; bunk design, layout and orientation; mattress, bedding, padding for ship movement, headroom clearance especially upper bunk/deckhead; insulating and/or isolating sleeping areas; use of colour and artwork in the cabins; and use of acoustic insulation and/or other noise-abatement measures.
Additionally, IMO notes in Module 5 that since crew accommodation is often located in positions affected by noise and vibration, steps should be taken early in the design stage to alleviate this. Apart from external noise, noise levels generated by the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems need controlling.