Planners and schedulers do their best to create fair and balanced employee schedules that both meet the particular needs of their organizations, while conforming with all statutory and company rules. Whether employees work on a fixed rotation basis, or they work a set schedule and pick up specific tasks when they report to work, managing the long term schedule patterns of these employees is typically straight forward and simple to implement.
Where planning and scheduling gets difficult is when things do not go according to plan. In other words, when employees take vacations, call out sick, or are otherwise not available to work their regular schedules. When these cases occur, schedulers need to quickly fill the vacant positions with qualified individuals who meet all of the requirements. In addition to needing to bring in qualified employees to fill these overtime positions, the schedulers need to be sure that they are calling the employees in the correct order so that the terms of the company’s and union’s negotiated collective bargaining agreement are followed to the letter. Failure to do so can lead to significant penalties that cost companies for each violation.
Adding a wrinkle to the challenge of overtime equalization in Power Plants, Nuclear facilities, Oil & Gas, and Petrochemical manufacturing is the emerging requirement to comply with fatigue rules. While the specific fatigue rules vary from industry to industry, they typically all pertain to minimum rest periods between shifts and a maximum number of hours during an allotted period. As such, it is important that any overtime equalization process both respect the terms of the collective bargaining agreements while also complying with government and industry fatigue management policies.
The key piece of data that schedules need when selecting employees for overtime positions were fatigue management is the start/stop times of the employees’ shifts. Not only knowing when they were supposed to work, but also knowing when they actually worked. Using a time clock, access control device, or other electronic, auditable system is the best and safest method to use. That way, you can be sure that the data that you are basing your decisions on is the most accurate and up to date data that is available.
The challenge with overtime equalization is that it is both forward and rearward looking. Forward looking in the sense that the position being filled with the overtime equalization process is in the future (sometimes the immediate future) but to make sound business decisions, schedulers need to look into the past. Likewise, they may need to put notes in place to ensure that employees who are working overtime in the future do not stay late on shifts leading up to the overtime, therefore putting them into a position where a fatigue violation would occur even though when the assignment was made, the employee was in the clear. By following these processes, companies can be sure to satisfy both the rules outlined in their collective bargaining agreements as well as the regulatory or industry fatigue rules.