CIRCADIAN was hired by a major oil company to conduct an accident/incident analysis of the operation in one of its facilities, evaluate the root causes of their incidents/accidents, and recommend effective countermeasures. The facility was located on the North Slope of Alaska, a remote area inside the Polar Arctic Circle. It is a fly in, fly out operation, and most workers work 12-hour shifts, with a 2 week on/2 week off pattern.
To initiate this work, CIRCADIAN conducted on-site interviews with managers and supervisors at both the Anchorage headquarters and at the North Slope site. CIRCADIAN also analyzed Motor Vehicle Accident reports to evaluate the overall safety of the field operations, and assessed factors contributing to those accidents, specifically the probability that they were fatigue-related.
All Motor Vehicle Accidents (MVAs) are investigated and incident reports are logged into a detailed database. Accident investigation is comprehensive. For the past eight years, the accident report included key parameters to determine whether the accident could be fatigue-related, such as time of day, hours on duty and consecutive days on duty. Thus, CIRCADIAN’s evaluation included data for the past eight years.
The analysis revealed that most accidents occur during winter, with snow and/or ice on the road. Most accidents occurred when backing, starting, and entering parking. Accidents on the main roads occurred mainly on straight segments, most likely due to icy roads or vehicles getting slightly onto the shoulder, where there was soft snow, and being pulled off the road.
Regarding time of day, it was interesting to note that the majority of accidents occur during the daytime. This is significant because it is well established that most fatigue-related accidents occur at night, when alertness levels are at their lowest. Also, many accidents occurred around sthe tart/end of the hitch, on the first couple of days and the last day of work. This could be explained by the fact that workers need some time to adjust to the harsh environment, especially during winter, and to the anticipation of departure, which, associated with accumulated fatigue, may reduce attentiveness to the job. Also, accidents tended to occur most often at the beginning and end of the shift. However, there was not a strong correlation between consecutive work hours and number of accidents.
The evaluation concluded that driving accidents on the North Slope operation were tied more closely to road conditions and start-up activities (backing out of or pulling into a parking space, etc.) than they were to the fatigue induced by long hours of continuous duty/driving. Recommendations to minimize driving accidents were provided, based on these results, and they included training, policies and procedures, and installation of back up alerts.