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Fatigue – what’s the problem?

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Fatigue – what’s the problem?

On May 23, 2018, Posted by , In Uncategorized, With No Comments

Many industries rely on workers being physically and mentally alert. Fatigue is a state of physical and/or mental exhaustion which reduces a person’s ability to perform work safely and effectively.

Fatigue reduces alertness. This may lead to errors, and an increase in workplace incidents and injuries. As an employer, ensure your workers are not experiencing signs or effects of fatigue on the job. Include information about fatigue in your safety guidelines and induction procedure.

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is a state of feeling tired, exhausted, weary or sleepy. It results from lack of sleep and can be heightened from prolonged mental activity or periods of stress and anxiety.

Signs and symptoms of fatigue:

  • Tiredness or sleepiness

  • Memory lapses

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Slower reaction times

Effects of fatigue:

  • The effects of fatigue can reduce a worker’s:

  • Ability to make decisions

  • Ability to do complex planning

  • Communication skills

  • Performance

  • Attention

  • Ability to handle stress

  • Reaction time

  • Ability to recall details

Fatigue can result in:

  • Increased error in judgement

  • Loss of appetite and digestive problems

  • Depression

  • Increased sick time, absenteeism

Studies have shown that fatigue can have similar effects to drinking alcohol. 17 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 50mg (the legal limit in NZ), 24 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 100mg.

Causes of fatigue:

Fatigue is caused primarily by long hours of being awake. This can include extended shifts and irregular and disrupted sleep. Workplace factors such as high temperatures, high noise levels and repetitive work tasks can increase feelings of fatigue.

Caffeine and alcohol can affect sleep quality and quantity, and can disrupt sleep patterns. Medication can also affect sleep and cause loss of alertness during work.

Certain sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy and insomnia affect alertness.

What can an employer do?

Here are some examples:

  • Set achievable demands for your workers in relation to agreed hours of work.

  • If the job requires long hours or overtime, consider that your workers will need enough time for other daily activities such as commuting, socializing, relaxing etc.

  • Provide a work environment that has good lighting, comfortable temperatures, and reasonable noise levels.

  • Match worker’s skills and abilities to job demands; Support workers to have a level of control over their pace of work.

  • Involve workers in decisions that may impact their health and safety, and have processes to enable workers to raise issues and concerns they might have.

  • Ensure managers and supervisors have the capability and knowledge to identify, understand and support workers who may be feeling stressed

  • Provide workers with access to independent counselling services

Fatigue increases the risk of injuries or other accidents in the workplace. Help making your workers and your business safer!

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