Module 4 - Fatigue, awareness and training

  1. This module builds upon the previous modules and contains practical information on fatigue awareness and training intended for those involved in fatigue awareness and related training. It is recommended that those involved in fatigue awareness and training become familiar with all the other modules.

    What are the objectives of raising awareness and training on fatigue?

  2. Fatigue training and awareness are essential components for effective fatigue management. Fatigue management should be taught in such a way that seafarers can understand and relate to it personally. Seafarers will at some point be required to make operational decisions based on their knowledge of fatigue. Hence, all personnel who work on ships, and shore-based personnel who contribute to fatigue management in the company, should have appropriate training.

  3. Some onboard fatigue mitigation strategies lie outside the power of most individuals to implement (such as ship manning levels, the rearrangement of watches, changing ship design or modifying voyage schedules). Hence, fatigue awareness and training should not just be limited to seafarers but should also include shore-based personnel involved in overall operational risk assessment and resource allocation, including manning levels, on ships.

  4. The content of fatigue management training should be adapted according to the knowledge and skills required for each group. All groups should be educated in the basics about the dynamics of sleep loss and recovery, the effects of the daily cycle of the body clock, the influence of workload and the ways in which these factors interact with operational demands to produce fatigue. In addition, it is useful for all groups to have information on how to manage their personal fatigue and sleep issues.

  5. The objectives are to provide:

    .1 an awareness of fatigue and an acceptance that everyone experiences fatigue – it is not a personal shortcoming or weakness;

    .2 know-how about short- and long-term fatigue signs and symptoms, including its effects and possible preventive and mitigating measures; and

    .3 the ability to develop and implement fatigue management strategies for preventing or minimizing fatigue on board.

    What approaches and techniques are successful for teaching fatigue management?

  6. Training in the causes and management of fatigue extends from the underlying science (module 1) to mitigation, control and monitoring (modules 2, 3 and 5). It is taught as part of existing maritime training courses such as Basic training, Engine-room resource management, or Bridge resource management, or as specialized short courses. It can be taught ashore or on board. It can be included in refresher or revalidation training.

  7. Part of the education process should be to ensure that seafarers and shore-based personnel who contribute to fatigue management understand the necessity of getting regular rest and sleep, and the potential impacts of being fatigued (both on themselves and on the safety of the ship and/or those working with them).

  8. Training should include recognizing the symptoms of fatigue and developing preventive measures/mitigating techniques. Earlier modules should be utilized to specifically tailor the training to the audience. Areas covered can include the causes, symptoms, effects, prevention and mitigation factors, including rules and regulations concerning fatigue.

  9. Initial fatigue-related training efforts should establish a common base level of understanding among seafarers and shore-based company employees about fatigue and the impairment it causes. This training should be provided to all seafarers and shore-based personnel involved in resource allocation, including manning decisions.

  10. As a minimum, training should consist of:

    .1 fatigue, its causes and potential consequences (contributors, consequences, high-risk situations);

    .2 sleep (circadian rhythms, body clock, sleep process, circadian low, sleep debt, sleep disorders, working at night and watchkeeping);

    .3 fatigue countermeasures (e.g. mitigation strategies, managing sleep habits, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, nutrition, exercise, napping, rest breaks);

    .4 basic information on sleep disorders and treatment of them, where to seek help if needed and any requirements relating to fitness for duty;

    .5 an understanding of the rules and regulations dealing with fatigue (MLC, 2006 and STCW Convention), and a recognition that these represent one line of defence in managing the risk of fatigue;

    .6 how to identify fatigue in oneself and in others;

    .7 personal strategies that seafarers can use to improve their sleep and to minimize their own fatigue risk, and that of others, while they are on duty;

    .8 the responsibility of the company to provide, and of seafarers to take advantage of, adequate rest periods;

    .9 the responsibility of the seafarer to report situations when unable to obtain adequate sleep or feeling at risk of making fatigue-related errors; and

    .10 the responsibility of the company to have policies in place to appropriately manage fatigue risks including policies against retaliation for reporting.

  11. Decisions on watch schedules can affect fatigue, hence training and awareness about factors that contribute to fatigue and how duty and watch schedule design is crucial to fatigue management should be part of more comprehensive training. This training should be directed at shipboard management-level seafarers and shore-based personnel involved in resource allocation including manning.

  12. As a minimum, training for these personnel should comprise of:

    .1 seafarer training on fatigue as indicated above;

    .2 their role in relation to fatigue hazard identification, risk assessment, evaluation and reporting;

    .3 how scheduling affects sleep opportunities and can disrupt the body clock, the fatigue risk that this creates and how it can be mitigated through proper work scheduling (in particular, the timing of duty schedules, work duration, recovery time between duty periods, recovery time between watch schedules and the potential impact that unscheduled or planned changes can have on fatigue);

    .4 the use and limitations of any duty and watch scheduling tools and models for fatigue management;

    .5 the development of policies and processes to provide the opportunity to report fatigue situations without negative consequences; and

    .6 the provision of resources as outlined in other modules (lighting, food/diet, environmental, etc.) to manage fatigue.

    What can be learned from experience?

  13. Lessons learned provide a means to develop useful strategies to prevent or minimize fatigue. The instructor should review the previously shared personal experiences and direct the conversation toward the lessons learned or strategies, as students see them. The focus should be on appropriate case studies and specific experiences within the seafarer's workplace to show what fatigue management practices may be adopted.

  14. Trainees will have their own personal experiences and perceptions of fatigue and how to mitigate it. It is important to share a common understanding on fatigue issues and on its management. Ideally, this knowledge will be put into practice at the workplace.


  1. Cardiff University, Seafarers Fatigue Film:

  2. Grech, M. R., (2015). Working on Board: Fatigue, in Human Performance and Limitations for Mariners, Squire, D., Editor. The Nautical Institute: London. p. 96.

  3. IMO – Training Course for Instructors.

  4. IMO Model Course 1.21 Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities (2015 Edition).