Mike Harnett, Leading Fatigue Expert, is interviewed along with other experts in this series “SafeSets”. Sleep deprivation is a common risk for anyone working in the film and television industry. In the first of these videos Harnett explains the dangers of fatigue and how it occurs . In the second video, Harnett discusses ergonomics and repetitive stress.
Host Paul Heinzelmann, MD, MPH, joins with cast, crew, and experts to discuss health and safety, and present fresh strategies for well-being in an industry full of hazardous conditions. Under pressure to meet tight schedules and long days, safety protocols get compromised to the determent of everyone in all areas of the production.
Heinzelmann hopes that newcomers, rebuking this unhealthy culture, will be the changemakers for these critical practises.
Asleep At The Wheel
Brutally long days and erratic sleep lead to accidents, chronic disease and depression.
Headaches, eye strain, repetitive strain disorder paired with disease from a sedentary lifestyle plague post- production.
Do you know where your fatigue-related risks are? Do you have the right strategies in place? If you’re worried about the impact of fatigue at the job site, or simply don’t know where to start, we’re here to help!
Mike Harnett, president of Solaris Fatigue Management, with one of the two Cooperative Truck Platooning System trucks at the AMTA Rocky View location.
Platooning Profiles: Mike Harnett, President, Solaris Fatigue Management
AMTA is releasing a series of profiles of the people involved with theCooperative Truck Platooning System (CTPS)project. The project is currently processing data from the nation’s first pair of artificially intelligent semi-trucks of their kind, including human factors.
A key element of the CTPS project is the study of human factors – including fatigue – and for Mike Harnett, president ofSolaris Fatigue Management, her company is the link between science and applying fatigue management in the real world of their customers.
“I always say, this career chose me, I didn’t choose it,” she said.
In her first job after graduating, Harnett focused on injury prevention with a Canadian railway company after a tragic freight train incident in which 23 people were killed.
“After an intense investigation, over 300 contributing factors were identified, but the key contributors to this tragic event was a combination of poor work culture and fatigued workers,” she explained. “From there, I was sent to Washington DC and Michigan to learn about these emerging topics called Human Factors and Ergonomics, and leaders in Australia were beginning to share their initial studies in Fatigue Management. They were really in their infancy. I’ve been augmenting my education and learnings ever since.”
Harnett said AMTA reached out to Solaris in 2020 regarding submission of a bid for the CTPS project to Transport Canada.
“I welcomed the opportunity to work with the AMTA and the other partners they had lined up, knowing that we were dealing with an issue that would have a strong impact on future regulations and the promotion of a fatigue risk management system beyond hours of service rules.”
Harnett explained most of today’s technology comes from experts in engineering and IT, but very few have employed human factors professionals into the mix.
“Thankfully, Transport Canada recognized this when they were reviewing the potential impact of a CTPS coming in to play. We already know that commercial drivers are subject to high levels of fatigue and decreased alertness while driving due to specific work factors including schedule designs, workload, sedentariness on longer routes, and personal factors such as poor sleep hygiene, sleep disorders, etc.
She added research clearly indicates when a driver is affected by fatigue, it negatively affects their reaction times (e.g., slower to brake), their situational awareness of traffic around them as well as their own driving behaviour (e.g., lane deviations), their visual acuity, and they are more likely to have difficulty with problem solving, reasoning and logic when something interrupts the normal driving experience.
While “fatigue is not something we are going to eradicate”, Harnett said organizations who accept that can turn their attention to mitigating risk through avoiding fatigue-promoting activities in the work system; looking at the task of driving through a fatigue lens; to see how much higher the risk is when driving while tired and supporting drivers with education and awareness on how best to manage fatigue.
“Fatigue management only works if you adapt it to fit into the context of your operations and what may work for one industry, or one company within that industry, does not always work for another,” she said. “That’s what makes Solaris different.”
This article was originally posted February 10, 2022 on
Mike Harnett poses with one of the two Cooperative Truck Platooning System trucks.
Opportunities for women in Canada’s commercial transportation industry available and growing
Kelsey Hipkin, Staff Writer, AMTA
Since 1909, when it was known as Minister of Railways, a man had always been named as Alberta’s Transportation Minister. That all changed when Rajan Sawhney was sworn in as the province’s first woman Transportation Minister on July 8, 2021.
Minister Sawhney is well aware of what that means for women in both leadership roles, and women in the logistics and supply chain.
“I’ve been an advocate for women, probably since the day I was born,” she said.
With a start in finance, Minister Sawhney identified more opportunities in the world of oil and gas and with the help of a government grant, earned an internship to get her foot in the door.
“I was working with a group of engineers and geologists and geophysicists – very technical [and] predominantly male,” she explained. “[There were] a few women and it was quite challenging because I was trying to juggle motherhood and childcare and family, as well as with a new internship, but I was so determined to prove myself. I even used to work on the weekends on my projects and focus on my presentation skills so that I would be deemed worthy to hire on full-time, and I was hired on full-time.”
Alberta Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney addressing the crowd at the Alberta Motor Transport Association Cooperative Truck Platooning System unveil. Photo, AMTA
Statistics show commercial transportation is also a predominantly male workforce. According to statistics fromTrucking HR Canada,women make up a mere 3.5 per cent of truck drivers in Canada, compared to 16 per cent in trucking and logistics and 48 per cent across all industries in the country.
A 2020 report compiled by Trucking HR and the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA),Recruiting and Retaining Diverse Communities: An Employer Roadmapbreaks down those statistics even further. The report states women in freight transportation make up 1.5 per cent of automotive service, truck and bus mechanics; 19.1 per cent of managerial staff; 38.7 per cent of dispatchers and 20.2 per cent of parts technicians.
BJ Zoobkoff found her way into commercial transportation by chance. Moving to Calgary to be closer to her father, she utilized a staffing agency and received a call for a one-year contract at a warehousing company.
“I had never had an interest in transportation and warehousing but was up for the challenge and it was close to home, so it was the perfect fit for me,” she said. “When my contract was about to finish, the company offered me a full-time position. At first, I thought ‘this is great, I will try this for another year and see where I land’. Here we are over 20 years later and I’m still loving it.
“It was not only all the daily challenges that made me fall in love with this industry, it was the relationships I got to build with fellow coworkers and customers. It was knowing that this was an industry that would always be thriving.”
BJ Zoobkoff, front, and fellow volunteers at a 2021 Driver Appreciation Days event. Photo submitted.
Fostering relationships within a chosen industry and with other women is wisdom shared by Minister Sawhney. She suggests for women looking for a change of career or to better their circumstances, they talk to women both in their network and outside of it.
“[If women] try to open up their horizons a little bit, open up their world a little bit, to see what else is out there for them,” she said. “And challenge their own inner assumptions that they may not be good enough or that they may not be smart enough to undertake something new.
“Change is always really difficult,” Minister Sawhney continued. “And we tend to make it really scary in our minds and we go down the worst-case scenarios about all the things that could possibly go wrong, but in reality those things never happen and things are always much more smoother than we could imagine.”
For women looking to make a change, commercial transportation is an industry looking for employees.
In October 2021, Trucking HR Canada released aLabour Market Information snapshotstating in the second quarter of 2021, there were more than 18,000 driver vacancies in Canada. The report said while that number is expected to “ease slightly” after 2021, it is still projected there will be an average driver vacancy of 28,000 jobs between 2021 and 2025.
There are a number of initiatives both industry and government are working on to get more people behind the wheel.
TheAlberta Government’s Driving Back To Work Grantis one of those initiatives. Unemployed Albertans have access to grant funding to take Mandatory Entry Level (MELT) training to obtain their Class1 license. The grant opened to receive new applicants on Oct. 1, 2021.
Another option, Women Building Futures, has programming for unemployed or under-employed women, including aClass 1 Driverclass. The eight-week class is offered in Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray and Lethbridge.
Commercial transportation offers a broad expanse of career opportunities, not just in driving, but in mechanics, administration, management and more, with opportunities to grow in a role, as experienced by Zoobkoff.
After being laid off in 2016, Zoobkoff was beginning to think it was time for a change in field when she got a call from Jason Fisher with XTL Transport.
“As soon as I started at XTL, something told me this was going to be my career, my forever place of employment,” Zoobkoff said. “And here we are five years later and I have gone from dispatching, to human resources and office administrator then human resources and safety admin\manager – which I did for 3.5 years. As the company continued to grow, we split the HR and Safety roles and I have now taken on the role of Safety Management for our Airdrie Terminal.”
“I always say, this career chose me, I didn’t choose it,” she said.
In her first job after graduating, Harnett focused on injury prevention with a Canadian railway company after a tragic incident with a freight train in which 23 people were killed.
“After an intense investigation, over 300 contributing factors were identified, but the key contributors to this tragic event was a combination of poor work culture and fatigued workers,” Harnett explained. “From there, I was sent to Washington DC and Michigan to learn about these emerging topics called Human Factors and Ergonomics, and leaders in Australia were beginning to share their initial studies in Fatigue Management. They were really in their infancy. I’ve been augmenting my education and learnings ever since.”
Mike Harnett poses with one of the two Cooperative Truck Platooning System trucks. Photo submitted.
The CTPS project is Canada’s first on road trail that introduces driver-assist technology to allow close-proximity following in platoon formation, reducing drag, and increasing fuel efficiency. Other sensors, radar and camera technology will send information between the trucks to ensure safe operations including active braking and acceleration systems responding to any acceleration and deceleration by the lead vehicle.
Over 175 closed track tests were conducted ensuring the platooning technology is safe for vehicle operators as well as the motoring public. CTPS will be unique in its study of human factor considerations and will be conducted during different seasons – including cold Alberta winters.
In her early years, Harnett said she often was the only woman in safety meetings or on industrial sites, “surrounded by men who had their own ideas of how things should be done. I was constantly wondering why we were doing things a certain way, but I was intimidated and felt I didn’t have a voice.”
She explained she found a strong mentor in her first boss who encouraged her to challenge the status quo and helped guide her through the “landmines”.
“I continue to challenge the status quo to this day; sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But we only learn from our mistakes,” Harnett explained. “So, if you’re passionate about what you do and want to be a leader, don’t just walk into the shallow end to test the waters. I’m talking about taking a three story skydive into the deep end of the pool with a cannonball finish. Be brave. Be fearless. And if you belly flop? Well, it will only hurt for a minute.”
The importance of having and/or being a good mentor is a sentiment echoed by Minister Sawhney. She explained it is incumbent on women in power to open doors for other women, and not just be a mentor, but a sponsor who takes that extra step to introduce women to opportunities that could help elevate their position.
“I will say something a little provocative here, and it’s not just for women, its for men too,” she said. “Sometimes when people reach a certain level, they are protective of the systems that allows them to get to that level and they don’t think about knocking down systemic barriers so other people can enter into that same arena.”
“I think part of being a strong leader, an influential leader, is making sure that you bring people along with you, you improve the situation of as many people as you can while you’re in your position.”
Very proud to have this report released! Thank you to all who contributed to our efforts, and a huge thank you to the CSA Group for tackling this issue. We are one step closer to providing all Canadian workplaces, both large and small, with a national standard on how to address fatigue. – Mike
With unprecedented levels of workplace fatigue attributed to modern day work, a national standard could help address the issue and improve workplaces in Canada (Toronto, November 20, 2019) –
Professional burnout is affecting a wide range of jobs, workplaces and industries, and there is no standard definition or management practice in place to address this issue. That’s the key finding from CSA Group’s latest research report Workplace Fatigue: Current Landscape and Future Considerations which was released today and finds that a common definition of workplace fatigue is currently lacking in Canada. In 2019, for the first time, the World Health Organization recognized burnout as a medical diagnosis. However, without a standard definition of what workplace fatigue means in Canada, it’s difficult to say how pervasive the problem is. CSA Group’s research finds that while a number of industries in Canada, including aviation, rail, marine, nuclear, oil and gas, healthcare and defense do recognize fatigue as an issue for workers, there is no comprehensive definition of workplace fatigue, what causes it or how it may affect performance.
“Our research has identified that there is certainly an opportunity for standards that address workplace fatigue to make a real and positive difference to workers in this country,” said Mary Cianchetti, President of Standards, CSA Group. “What we’ve found is there is a need to support the management of workplace fatigue in Canada for the health and safety of Canadian workers. CSA Group could help to address this gap with a national standard.”
In some workplaces, the potential consequences of fatigue can be a matter of life and death. Workers in paramedic services face unique health and safety issues on a daily basis such as shift work and extended work days, as well as periods of intense psychological stress or trauma. That’s why the Paramedic Association of Canada is currently working with CSA Group to develop a national standard on fatigue risk management for first responders, in parallel with this new research.
“Paramedics do a job that can be grueling both physically and emotionally, and workplace fatigue is an issue we cannot ignore. We know that the impact of fatigue on first responders can affect neurocognitive performance, which in turn can endanger not only their own personal health and safety, but also the health and safety of their fellow responders and the public they serve,” said Pierre Poirier, Executive Director, Paramedic Association of Canada. “This research identifies that a gap does exist in Canada when it comes to how fatigue is being addressed in the workplace. We are pleased to already be working with CSA Group to develop a standard for fatigue risk management for first responders aimed at reducing exposure to fatigue-related hazards and protecting both paramedics and the people they help every day.” In 2018, CSA Group introduced a psychological health and safety standard to address the specific needs of paramedic service organizations. The creation of a standard for workplace fatigue could address gaps in the existing legislation to protect the health and livelihood of all Canadian workers, regardless of where they work.
Which is better? Standard time or daylight saving time?
On Sunday, Nov. 1, many Canadians will see time fall back, gaining an hour in the return to standard time (ST).
Ah, fall — that time of year when everything is spiced with pumpkin, old Halloween costumes are dusted off, and we get one blissful extra hour of sleep as we fall back to standard time (ST).
On Nov. 1, many jurisdictions across Canada will fall back an hour as daylight saving time (DST) ends for another year.
For many of us, it’s a way to catch up on some extra sleep that we need, since a majority of Canadian adults are not meeting the minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
The opposite of course is DST, where we spring forward an hour and actually lose an hour of sleep, temporarily adding to the sleep debt that many of us already have.
So why do we rotate between the two, and is one better than the other?
History of daylight saving
Many of us were told to blame the farmers for bringing in DST.
The truth is, it was first implemented in — wait for it — Port Arthur, Ont., in 1908.
This was followed by Australia, Great Britain, Germany and then the U.S., who implemented it as a means of conserving fuel (mostly coal) by reducing the need for artificial light during the First World War.
Since that time, there have been numerous studies that suggest any benefit of saved energy during the summer months are offset by the winter months.
Regardless of which side you lean to (DST or ST), pretty much everyone is in agreement that we hate having to switch back and forth between the two.
Daylight saving vs. standard time
The debate has now shifted to which one is better. And the gloves are coming off.
People are confused by DST and ST.
Very simply, DST has us wake up earlier (in darker hours) and gives us sunlight later in the day and evening hours.
On the surface, this sounds great! We can stay up longer and cram more into our evening hours.
Businesses such as restaurants, tourism and entertainment venues will see the commercial benefit.
Detrimental effects of DST
The downside of DST? We are harming ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally.
Light is the primary synchronizer of our body clock, keeping our circadian rhythms in harmony with each other and the light-dark rotation of our planet.
As a diurnal species, we are designed to rise with the sun and set with the sun.
What DST does is force us to work against the planet, causing our rhythms to not only drift, but desynchronize. Waking up when it’s still dark outside becomes more difficult, as we’re programmed to get our best sleep during those hours.
The result is that we wake up with more sleep inertia — that groggy feeling that makes us want to throw our alarm through the wall into the room next door.
Think of how this may affect you. We now have groggy bus drivers transporting our groggy kids to school, and groggy commuters wreaking havoc on the roads as we try to make our way to work.
What about those who work night shifts, you ask? Won’t it help them? To some degree, yes. But it will make their dayshift assignments a real problem!
We will see more errors and incidents at the worksite in the morning hours and poorer shift handovers during the morning exchange. There is no benefit to rotating shift workers.
The argument for permanent ST
The later we have sunlight exposure due to DST, the harder it will be to fall asleep at our “normal” bedtime.
You will be pushed to a later start time, not only because of the psychological effect of light at in the evening, but because light reduces melatonin production — our natural sleep hormone.
Melatonin helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. Without it, we incur less quantity and quality of sleep.
There are additional consequences to this, including a negative impact on our immune system (hello, COVID-19) and our mood (welcome, anti-depressants) and less clean-up of the toxins in our brain from the double whammy of being awake longer and getting less sleep (nice to meet you, Alzheimer’s disease).
Leading sleep neurobiologists and circadian researchers worldwide are in agreement — to keep our body clock in sync with our solar clock, it is best to eliminate DST and stay on permanent ST.
I’m staring daggers at my coffeemaker impatiently drumming my fingers against my chipped mug, swearing at it to hurry up.
Today, I need to jump-start my brain. I’m on edge. Sleep didn’t come easy after watching the late night news, something I normally and deliberately avoid. I tossed and turned, worried about COVID, and racism, and riots, and the economy, and a second coming of the toilet paper famine.
I’m hoping the coffee will make me feel less… murdery.
Brew now in hand, I step outside and pace around the yard. It’s no surprise that stress is taking a toll on us. Stress typically turns off when the stressors disappear. But what makes our current situation unique is that the stress isn’t going away, and there’s no timeline for when it will.
The truth is, we may never experience a return to normal as we knew it pre-2020.
SLEEPLESSNESS COMES FIRST, THEN STRESS
In the past, stress, depression and mental health disorders were viewed as a cause of insomnias and other sleep disorders. Only recently has science revealed that it’s actually the opposite. In fact, the less sleep, the higher the risk for mental health issues such as depression, schizophrenia, low impulse control and suicidal thoughts.1
So, in order to maintain a healthy mind, we need a healthy sleep. Most of us now recognize that adults require at least 7-9 hours of quality sleep to repair the brain and body from the stressors of the day.2
More specifically, it is during the latter part of our sleep period that we spend most of our time in REM sleep. This is the critical period for our brain to recharge both our cognitive abilities and emotional tolerances. If we can’t fall asleep, or cut our sleep short, or wake up throughout the night, you will be lacking the tools to deal with the next challenge 2020 throws at us.
Therein lies the conundrum. A lack of sleep escalates our stress, and the more stress, the more cortisol and adrenaline are dumped into our system, escalating our sleeplessness. A vicious cycle erupts.
And that’s why I step outside. To break the cycle!
How does stepping outside help? It’s simple really.
Yup… that’s the key to managing all this toxic plume swirling around us. Well, it’s one of the keys. A really big key. The biggest key.
Here’s the science. As humans, our sleep-wake cycle is controlled by the amount and timing of light exposure. Sunlight is the single most powerful synchronizer we have, regulating our mood, energy levels, and sleep abilities by making sure our body rhythms work in harmony with each other, not against each other.
When we go out into the bright sunlight, it converts certain foods that contain tryptophan into serotonin. How much is produced is directly related to the amount of tryptophan in your diet and the amount of bright sunlight you’re exposed to in the day. The brighter the sunshine and the longer you’re exposed to it, the more serotonin produced.
Serotonin is known as one of our “happiness” hormones, giving us sensations of joy and pleasure, and basically making us nice people to be around. We’re kinder, communicate better (without swearing) and are less likely to over-react when the kids paint the dog.
Sunshine = increased stress tolerance and better mood – Check!
But that’s not all it does. When the sun starts to set, the brain reaches into our serotonin stores and converts it to melatonin. Melatonin is our natural sleep hormone, helping us to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Low serotonin means low melatonin.
Sunshine = better and more sleep – Check!
So, to help us cope with pandemics, protests, and people in general, we need to do two things.
1. Eat a diet rich in tryptophan.
Tryptophan is especially high in proteins such as fish, meat, eggs, dairy and nuts and we need sufficient quantities to produce serotonin. Quinoa gets a shout out as well.
You can also get it as a nutritional supplement if you’re worried you’re not getting enough – I’m looking at you vegans!
2. Get outside.
Morning sun is preferable as it synchronizes our body rhythms to a daytime schedule. On a cloudless day, depending on the time of year, it can range from 10,000 to 50,000 lux of light!
Even on a cloudy day, the lux levels outside are significantly higher than in your house or office which sit around 300 – 500 lux of light. So pull on those rain boots and strut outside for an hour or so.
In winter time, especially for us pasty-faced Canadians, we have less light exposure, which explains why depression levels are so much higher during that time of year. There are all kinds of light boxes that you can buy to help you get the light fix you need. Just be sure to get one that replicates at least 10,000 lux of light.
Unfortunately, working at night or having an erratic sleep schedule can further disrupt serotonin production and subsequently, melatonin levels. Here’s where many of our frontline workers are at elevated risk. The low serotonin levels can result in sleep disorders such as insomnia, in addition to increases in mood swings, anger levels, and even addictive behaviours.3
Using a light box can provide significant benefits to these workers when walking in sunshine isn’t an option.
While some may think that buying synthetic melatonin is the answer, they are a complex hormone that, if taken in the wrong amount, or not timed correctly, can create significant health consequences. Our melatonin requirements vary wildly from person to person and even day to day. Recent research illustrates the many risks associated with it and why we should limit its use.4
Sunshine helps us develop our body’s natural defences against stress by improving sleep. Since your brain can’t repair itself while you’re sitting on the couch watching The Real Housewives of Moose Jaw, go outside and catch some rays.
1Brooks, Megan. (2014, June 2). Suicide More Likely After Midnight. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/826054
2National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times | Sleep Foundation. (2020). Retrieved 29 July 2020, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times
3 Pirola, Carlos J. (2007). Serotonin and Serotonin Transporter Gene Variant in Rotating Shift Workers. Sleep. Aug. 2007
4 Cipolla-Neto, José; Gaspar do Amaral, Fernanda. (2018). Melatonin as a Hormone: New Physiological and Clinical Insights, Endocrine Reviews, Volume 39, Issue 6, December 2018, Pages 990–1028.