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Fixed roster pattern causing fatigue for Tram Drivers

Report Number:

March 2014

  • Concern

Tram Drivers are concerned about the effects of fatigue arising as a result of the fixed roster. The most fatigue inducing shifts are reported to be those where there is a rotation from early to late shifts and the night shift.

Early to late rotation: The reporter comments that the structure of the roster is the main reason for fatigue; a week of very early shifts is followed by a week of very late shifts. Normally staff are given two full days' rest in between but there are a number of weeks in the roster where only one full day is provided. This makes it difficult for staff to adjust their sleeping patterns and get enough rest before rotating shifts.

Night shift: The night shift, which runs from 22:15 - 06:40, is also a cause of concern. This shift is for tram preparation work and involves at least eight miles of walking over the course of the shift. On occasion, staff have also been expected to drive trains during the morning service if another Driver fails to turn up for their shift.

It is felt that that the shifts described above and the activities involved increase fatigue amongst staff and the likelihood of micro sleeping, which could lead to an operational incident.

The reporter makes the following suggestions to improve the roster and reduce the effects of fatigue:

  • Allow all staff to work the flexible roster where a longer run of either early or late consecutive shifts is worked, with a greater number of rest days in between.
  • Introduce middle shifts to avoid the rotation straight from early to late shifts, allowing for a better adjustment period.
  • Finish the night shift at 04:00 and do not allow staff working the night shift to cover Driver duties the same morning.

Could First Croydon Trams consider:

  • Reviewing the fixed roster in relation to the concerns raised above?
  • The reporter's suggestions of how to improve the roster and work life balance?

 

  • Response

Response from First Croydon Trams

Rosters are only implemented following consultation with recognised trade unions (ASLEF and Unite).  A rosters working party (independent of trade union membership) was also established in 2010 following feedback from an independent staff survey.

Following various meetings, the consensus view was that there should be three rosters; an 'early', 'late' and 'all encompassing' roster. These rosters (for 127 Drivers) were duly put in place in June 2012 and cannot reasonably be changed or tailored to suit individuals. However, flexible working arrangements are in place for those who qualify for special needs. Each request for flexible rostering is dependent on individual needs and the company's business objectives; that is, operating a tram service for the client from 04:00 until 01:40 daily.

The Health and Safety Executive fatigue risk index is used to highlight any areas that may require attention such as 'early to late rotation'; none has been identified in the current roster. Naturally, this does not capture members of staff who have swapped duties or decided to work overtime.  In this case, company requirements for maximum length of day and minimum time off between duties would apply.

The night shift runs from 22:15 - 06:40.  This shift is popular with some staff, who swap duties with others who would prefer not to do them (14 duties in a 116 week roster). Night shift involves preparing thirty 30 metre long trams for service in the depot sidings.  A recent measurement of the walking distances involved was 1746 metres (1.08 miles).  Driving a tram requires a certain degree of physical fitness and all staff undergo routine medical examinations; reasonable adjustments would be considered should an individual be found 'unfit' to carry out the walking required.

There are rare occasion when Drivers 'fail to show' for early duties and the night standby has been required to start the duty.  There have been no recorded operational incidents in which this shift proved to be an underlying cause.

In response to the suggestions raised by the reporter:

Allow all staff to work the flexible roster where a longer run of either early or late consecutive shifts is worked, with a greater number of rest days in between.

A flexible roster already consists of either wholly early or wholly late shifts. The extent to which individuals can be included is conditioned by the requirement to provide a tram service for the client for the whole day of operation and the requirement to work 37 hours over a five day week. There are two rest days in any week.

Introduce middle shifts to avoid the rotation straight from early to late shifts, allowing for a better adjustment period.

There are already middle shifts and these are used to best effect to smooth out the transition from earlies to lates.

Finish the night shift at 4:00 and do not allow staff working the night shift to cover Driver duties the same morning.

Drivers are used overnight to drive trams in any case (depot movements, testing, emergencies etc…) as well as in the event of a Driver shortage for service. Any Driver so used would be relieved as soon as another Driver became available. If the night shift were to begin earlier at, say, 20:00, the first part of the duty would have to incorporate a spell of service driving. This has been discussed with staff representatives and did not meet with approval.