07 Dec Why fatigue is one of the biggest workplace dangers
Fatigue is not only a workplace safety hazard on its own, it also amplifies the risk of other injuries and accidents.
It dulls the performance of staff, reduces their attention span, limits their ability to handle stress, impacts their productivity and can lead to poor decisions – a major hazard when the job involves machinery or being behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Research has shown that fatigue can impair driving skills just as much as alcohol, with 17 hours of awake time equal to a blood alcohol content of 0.05 while staying awake for 24 hours can be as detrimental as being twice the legal limit.
It is important for staff and employers to recognise the signs of fatigue and better manage shifts to ensure that no worker is putting themselves and others in danger.
How to manage staff fatigue
For managers, it is important to put preventative measures in place as part of each staff member’s daily activities to stop workers from getting fatigued in the first instance.
Some strategies could include:
- Drink plenty of water: dehydration is another cause of fatigue
- Take regular breaks: stand up and walk away from your terminal or station at least once every two hours
- Communication: speak to your employees about their workload, shifts and how it is impacting their sleep and energy levels
- Manage: ensure that workers are correctly logging their hours so you can keep track of the hours and shifts they are working
- Environment: ensure working spaces are well lit and are not too hot or too cold.
Which workers and industries are most at risk of fatigue?
Safe Work Australia has identified certain professions that are more likely to experience symptoms of fatigue than others, symptoms including:
- Shift and night workers
- Fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers
- Drive-in, drive-out workers
- Seasonal workers
- On-call and call-back workers
- Emergency service workers
- Medical professionals and other health workers.
Some of the leading causes of workplace fatigue include:
- Mental or physical activity that is intense and/or over a prolonged period of time
- Sleep disturbances, loss or deprivation from conditions like sleep apnea
- Extreme heat or cold
- Excessively long shifts
- A lack of quality recovery time between shifts
- Long commutes and;
There is also a range of medical conditions that can cause long term lack of energy and fatigue including:
High blood pressure
Extreme weight gain or weight loss
Chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis)
A decrease in thyroid hormone production
rheumatoid arthritis and other health conditions.
If you are noticing increased fatigue please seek medical advice.
Preventing workplace fatigue when you are on the road
The only sure-fire way to combat fatigue is to sleep. Always ensure you are well rested before getting behind the wheel, especially for long haul commutes or work journeys.
Some other tips that may help prevent fatigue include:
- Avoid travelling more than eight to 10 hours per day
- Take a break every two hours
- Share the driving if possible
- Don’t drive at times you would normally sleep as this will disrupt your sleep schedule
- Avoid the use of caffeine or other stimulants to keep you awake, as you will be even more tired when they wear off
- Keep the vehicle well ventilated
- Avoid eating fatty foods and;
- Listen to the radio, especially talkback stations that will stimulate your mind
Ensure your staff reach their destinations safely at all times
IONYX has developed the Journey Management System (JMS) app for businesses to ensure all of their staff reach their destinations safe and well.
The app uses the GPS of a mobile device to track all work-related journeys and alert you if a staff member has not reached a checkpoint, identified stop or final destination so that you can investigate and send help.
JMS is an effective tool to manage workers that are required to travel, especially in remote locations, for their work and can help combat fatigue and ensure your workers reach their destination safe and well.