Fatigue is the Navy’s Black Lung Disease

By Captain John P. Cordle, U.S. Navy (Retired): For More Info, Go Here…

The service must address this threat to the lifelong health of its sailors.

You work in an industry that is critical to national security. You endure difficult working conditions, long days, and shift work. You know that some former employees suffer from maladies that may be related to the work environment, the same one in which you toil each day. Your leaders know the consequences of this health epidemic, but they also are aware of the exorbitant cost and operational impact of addressing the issue and implementing mitigations that would ensure the well-being of the workforce long after workers leave the company. You are:

1. A coal miner in 1960.

2. A navy sailor in 2020.

Answer: Both. Fatigue is the Navy’s black lung disease.

Over the past two years, there has been much discussion in the Navy about the impact of fatigue on watch standing, maintenance, and operations at sea. The collisions in 2017 and ensuing investigations revealed the problem in an operational sense, and, to its credit, much of the Navy has adopted crew endurance and fatigue management programs. Missing from the conversation, however, is Navy leaders’ duty to the lifelong health of the force and the positive impact that broader education and policy changes could have on Navy life.

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