Health & Safety Bulletin – Managing Fatigue in the Workplace – July 19

Fatigue – is more than feeling tired and drowsy; it is a state of mental and / or physical exhaustion that reduces an employee’s ability to perform work safely and effectively.

Signs of Fatigue – can include the following: tiredness even after sleep, reduced hand-eye coordination or slow reflexes, short term memory problems and inability to concentrate, blurred vision or impaired visual perception to name a few.

Causes of Fatigue – can be work related, personal or a combination of both. They can also be short term or accumulate over time. Work causes of fatigue might include, prolonged or intense mental or physical activity, sleep loss, organizational change, exceptionally hot or cold working environments, strenuous jobs and others. Individuals who are at high risks of fatigue includes shift workers, emergency service workers, medical professionals and other health workers.

Impacts of Fatigue in the Workplace – Fatigue in the workplace doesn’t only impact on workers mental and physical health, it can also affect on the health and safety of those around them. Fatigue can also result in a lack of alertness, slower reactions to signals or situations. This can also increase the risk of incidents and injury in a workplace, particularly when:

  • Operating fixed or mobile high-risk plant
  • Working at heights
  • Working with flammable or explosive substances
  • Hazardous work such as electrical work.

Managing Fatigue in the Workplace – Everyone in the workplace has a work health and safety duty and can help to ensure fatigue doesn’t create a risk to health and safety at work. In managing fatigue, it is important to:

  • Consult with the workers, managers and supervisors about the impact of workloads and work schedules.
  • Examining work practices, systems of work and worker records;
  • Reviewing incident data.

Example of control measures for fatigue risk that could be considered include:

  • Work scheduling
  • Environmental conditions
  • Nonwork related factors
  • Workplace Fatigue Policy

Providing information and training to all employees will help them to do their job but also implement control measures to minimize the risk of fatigue in the workplace.