Evaluating Cognitive Screening as a Possible Solution to Reducing Accidents and Improving Workplace Productivity through Early Preventive Detection of Fatigue-Impairment in the Construction Industry

  • Ronald Powell

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Fatigue is emerging as a significant concern in the workplace principally focused on its relationship to accidents and lost productivity. Construction work exposes workers to many hazards and if safety programmes are not effective, accidents will result. Based on the sector’s safety performance, workers are not being adequately protected and improvement is needed. Fatigue-related impairment has been identified as a subject of concern for all workplaces yet it is not yet a focus within construction and few operational studies have been undertaken to develop tools to assist with identification and control of this workplace impairment. This research started with an assessment of the management of impairment within the global construction industry as well as an evaluation of tools that might assist in identification and classification of fatigue levels. In particular, cognitive tests were studied and shown to have sensitivity to natural changes in alertness in an operational setting. A small battery of cognitive tests was compared and showed that cognitive tests based on reaction times were possible candidates to help identify fatigue-related impairment in real time. The top performing tests were then used as possible surrogate measures for fatigue. To finally assess their performance capability their output was compared to estimations from an advanced actigraph-fed fatigue model. 100 volunteer workers each wore an actigraph for a month each to collect information on their personal sleep/wake cycles and activity whilst periodically doing the cognitive tests. The data from the actigraphs was analyzed by proprietary software to determine individual performance effectiveness. It was found that output from these simple, quick, and low cost tests significantly correlated with the most advanced actigraph-fed fatigue model. It is concluded that cognitive tests can be used as screens for fatigue-related impairment in the workplace. All primary parameters used for modelling showed extremely high significance (Pr( >Chisq) < 2.2e-16) in correlation to fatigue-based effectiveness results and could be developed into a screening tool for fatigue-related impairment in the construction industry as part of a fatigue management programme.
Date of Award31 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAlexander Copping (Supervisor) & Andrew Heath (Supervisor)

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