Is fatigue a risk factor in your workplace?

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From a late night to a new baby, there are plenty of reasons why an employee might be feeling tired – however, if that torpor stretches to fatigue, they may end up putting themselves and others at risk.

“Fatigue is more than being tired – it’s physical and/or mental exhaustion, to the extent people are no longer effective or safe at work,” said Simon Humphries, WorkSafe’s acting deputy general manager for investigations and technical services.

According to Humphries, the responsibility of managing fatigue can’t fall solely to employers – workers also have to play their part.

Here, he offers advice on how companies can help employees remain physically and mentally alert, deliver quality output, and keep themselves and others safe.

For businesses
  • Have good work schedules, working hours and rosters.  Monitor overtime. Limit periods of excessive mental or physical demands. Involve workers when working out how to manage work risks; they will certainly have useful operational knowledge
  • Make workers know that they can make suggestions, ask questions or raise concerns
  • Make them aware of the signs and symptoms of fatigue so they know what to look for.
  • Review how the work could be managed to minimise fatigue risks.  Put in place better processes, workflows and workstation conditions
  • Develop a fatigue policy for managers and workers. Have a reporting system workers can use when fatigued or when there is a fatigue-related incident

For workers
  • Keep themselves hydrated. Take breaks.  Before agreeing to working overtime, think about how the extra work could affect health and safety
  • If working in repetitive tasks, ask for a variety of work
  • Let manager know if they are too tired to work, or travel to and from work
  • Get seven to nine hours of sleep and truly relax on days off

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