Interaction With Other Hazards
When taking a risk management approach to fatigue, it is very important to consider how fatigue might interact with other workplace hazards. The level of risk associated with some hazards, such as manual tasks and exposure to hazardous chemicals, dust, and noise, may increase when working extended hours.
Causes And Consequences Of Poor Fatigue Management Strategies
There are plenty of possible causes of fatigue, which makes fatigue management strategies more complicated and potentially less effective.
Some causes of fatigue are impossible for companies to prevent completely, as some originate and are maintained at home in workers’ personal lives. Other forms of fatigue are created and exacerbated in the workplace.
Some of the most common causes of fatigue for all kinds of workers include:
- Long shifts and changing shifts
- Work scheduling and not enough time to recover between shifts or periods of sustained work
- Long commute times and excessive travel
- Strenuous jobs which require intense or extended periods of physical or mental exertion
- Abnormally hot or cold environments
As you can see, some of these fatigue causes occur suddenly while other accumulate and stew over time. It’s important that both forms are managed through your fatigue management strategies.
The consequences of fatigue are multi-faceted too – but they share the common theme of creating more unsafe and less productive workers through:
- A lack of alertness
And some consequences of fatigue are more indirect including:
- Workers being sick more often
- Workers being less productive
Other ‘personal’ fatigue in professions like medicine can result in direct impacts to patients through error and other fatigue induced mishaps.
A single bout of fatigue can have a big and lasting impact on entire projects and entire companies or organisations.
Notifications During The Holiday Period
If someone has been seriously injured, become seriously ill, or died as a result of work – phone us on 0800 030 040 straight away.
Notifications made through our online form won’t be monitored between 2pm on Friday 24 December 2021 and 8.30am – Wednesday 5 January 2022.
For more information see our page reduced holiday hours – notifications and general enquiries.
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How To Manage The Risks Of Work
A risk management approach ensures fatigue risks are identified, understood, monitored and controlled. It recognises that each situation has its own characteristics, which should be assessed to decide the best way of improving health and safety.
An effective risk management system should methodically and comprehensively ensure your employees’ health and safety by addressing three key areas:
- preventing harm by identifying physical and psychosocial hazards for fatigue, predicting and implementing measures to prevent fatigue and associated issues
- monitoring and early intervention by monitoring fatigue risks and signs of employee fatigue across work hours, and intervening to prevent issues or restore capacity until employees have an opportunity to recover
- supporting recovery by providing opportunities to recover and overcome exhaustion
Ensure controls are working as planned and, when necessary, improved.
Offer Nutritious Food And Drinks
Providing free or reduced cost meals and snacks encourage employees to stop and refuel. Offer healthy options in the break room, such as fresh or dried fruit, unsalted nuts, bean chips, popcorn, hummus and raw veggies, Greek yogurt, and bars with simple ingredients like fruit and nuts. Provide easy access to chilled, filtered water coolers, herbal teas, coffee, and more.
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Monitoring And Review Of Control Measures
Not all control measures will work as effectively as intended, and they may not remain effective over time as things change.
It is therefore essential to engage in ongoing monitoring and review of control measures, learn from experiences and make changes as necessary. High-risk hazards will require more frequent review. This process may require steps 1 and 2 to be repeated to ensure all risks have been controlled for so far as reasonably practicable.
Remember, consultation with employees is an important part of this process, which will likely involve trialling and refining control measures and considering employee feedback, new technology and changes in knowledge.
Having a monitoring and review process and plan in place will help you clarify your review objectives and the actions you need to take to make sure your review is successful.
What Is Workplace Fatigue
Workplace fatigue is not simply a measure of how long your workers have been sleep-deprived.
Instead, a definition of workplace fatigue that is conducive to effective management will recognize the influence of other factors such as: the health status of your workers the heat and noise levels in your workplace the number of consecutive night-shifts worked, etc.
Here is another way to envision the factors behind workplace fatigue. It is important to consider these factors in determining the fatigue risk that your workers may be subject to:
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Provide Stress Management Tools
The “fight or flight” response of our stress hormones allows us to maneuver a vehicle out of a potential crash or face the urge to run out of the room when ill prepared for a meeting . While sometimes life saving, the initial sharp state of alertness from a stress response can leave you exhausted. Here are some proven strategies to release the stress hormones from your body.
- Set up stress-reduction classes.
- Provide unlimited free phone counseling for personal or professional issues.
- Create meditation or nap rooms to be used during morning and afternoon breaks.
- Set up a “fun room” or equip your break room with non-work activities such as Ping-Pong tables, foosball, and basketball hoops.
Dangers For Tired Employees
1. Improper Safety Implementation and Injury: Most workplace incidents have been connected to lack of sleep. An investigation of the BP refinery explosion revealed that some employees had worked over 12 hours daily for nearly one month at a stretch.
2. Impaired Motor Skills: Several studies have found out that 17-19 hours without sleep produce the same effect as a 0.05% alcohol level in the blood. A workers time can be reduced by 50%, much like when the individual is drunk.
3. Risk taking and Poor Decision Making: Sleep losses can contribute to riskier behavior. Impulsive decisions could be made by employees without them realizing it.
4. Poor Neural and Data Processing: Employees may find it hard to focus and retain new information. In a job that demands cutting-edge problem-solving skills, lag in cognitive function could be a severe problem.
5. Falling Asleep on the Job: Employees find it hard to respond to a critical situation. This was precisely what happened in 1989 during the Exxon Valdex Oil Spill.
6. Special Risk for Shift Workers: Tired workers are prone to accidents between midnight and 8 am. Elongated and rotating shifts create a severe health issue than the typical 8-hour shift.
7. Inability to Manage Stress: Sleeping for less than 7-8 hours in the night can affect stress and mood levels.
10. Overlooking Signs and Symptoms of Fatigued Employees: Some industries lack specific regulations as regarding work shifts.
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How Can A Workplace Address Fatigue
Fatigue can be addressed through the workplaceâs safety management system, or as a separate fatigue management program. Creation of a program that addresses both workplace and personal factors may include to:
- identify the hazards and conduct a risk assessment for factors associated with fatigue
- develop and implement the organizationâs response to when a person is experiencing fatigue
- document of the steps to take to report fatigue in self or others
- design the work area to have appropriate lighting, temperature, and noise levels.
- develop administrative practices such as maximum hours of service, appropriate shift rotation, extended workdays, reducing or eliminating the need to do high risk activities between certain hours , etc.
- assess physical and mental job demands.
- provide appropriate work, where possible. For example, try to offer a variety of tasks that vary in interest and movement throughout the shift.
- provide lodging or areas to rest or sleep, where appropriate and necessary
- educate and train about fatigue, including recognizing signs and symptoms of fatigue, how to gauge alertness, or steps to help achieve better sleep
- provide medical screening for health issues that may affect sleep
- provide mental health services, including employee assistance programs , as needed
- include fatigue as a possible factor and related causes of fatigue when investigating incidents
For more information, please see the following OSH Answers documents:
Take Regular Recovery Breaks
The human body continually experiences 90-minute cycles in alertness, not only during sleep but during the day as well. Therefore, we tend to be more productive if we work hard for about 90 minutes and then take a short break to reboot energy and improve mood, willpower, creativity, and decision-making abilities. Breaks can include:
- Resting your eyes
- Walking to see a colleague instead of picking up the phone
- Switching to a more mundane task
- Reading a book
- Taking a power nap
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Combat Workplace Fatigue With Technology And Management Skills
No matter what hustle culture might try to teach us, people are not machines. They get tired when overworked, and fatigue can create a safety hazard. This is especially true in industrial settings, where the presence of heavy machinery and other potential workplace hazards make alertness more critical for employees.
Fatigue is a problem that cant be solved with technological innovation alone. Industrial managers will always be responsible for creating a safety culture and setting workplace standards that emphasize human needs.
However, human efforts at good management can work together with technology to combat fatigue in the workplace. Read on to learn more about strategies for a comprehensive fatigue management plan.
Risks of fatigue in the workplace
Working to the point of exhaustion has long been a staple of unhealthy work cultures. Japan has even coined a word for the most extreme cases, karoshi, which translates to death from overwork. Unfortunately, the phenomenon is not just linguistic the World Health Organization found that in 2016 alone, more than 745,000 people died from overwork.
Fatigue doesnt just put you at risk of falling asleep on the job. It interferes with reaction times, concentration and memory, increasing the risk of work accidents. This is especially risky for heavy equipment operators and other positions critical to industrial workplaces.
Technology informs human approaches
The 3rd Step To Fatigue Risk Management: Management
After educating ourselves on the multitude of factors that could cause or contribute to fatigue, and realizing how important it is to measure or detect fatigue, companies can move toward proactively managing or applying countermeasures to fatigue risk in the workplace.
Managing fatigue presents 3 primary challenges:
We can think of fatigue as an input variable in the organizations workstream:
- Fatigue impacts the quality of an organization and its results
- It is inherent within all human resources
- It impacts worker health, often leading to absenteeism and contributing to workplace accidents.
Using Cost of Quality concepts, we can apply a Quality Improvement Model:
The Cost of Quality is a business model that shows how continuous improvement efforts reduce future costs.
Larger investments in prevention end up driving even larger savings in quality-related failures down the road.
The 1-10-100 Rule is a business efficiency model that can be used in qualitative analysis. Basically, it looks at the cost of prevention compared to the costs of correction, compared to the costs at our after a point of failure.
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Extended Hours Of Work
Extended work hours can affect the amount of time available for adequate sleep opportunity. It is important to monitor the amount of hours workers are doing each day. You can ensure workers arent required to work unnecessary extended hours by:
- ensuring sufficient cover for workers who are on annual or sick leave
- if overtime is necessary, plan for it so workers can schedule their activities around it
Where overtime is concerned:
- Limit overtime to 4 hours for 8 hour shifts
- Limit overtime to 2 hours for shifts longer than 10 hours.
- Do not allow overtime for shifts longer than 12 hours.
- Limit total hours per week to 55.
- Have a policy on second jobs ensure that the worker understands the obligation to get sufficient sleep and to be fit for duty.
North American Fatigue Management Program
North American Fatigue Management Program was launched on July 10, 2013 as a tool for commercial truck and bus carriers and their employees to use to help identify and manage fatigue and fatigue-related issues to improve driver and public safety.
The program can be used to help carriers understand the signs and impacts of fatigue, and assist carriers in the development of their own fatigue management program. The NAFMP is a shared effort between international partnerships, multiple jurisdictions and motor carrier stakeholder groups.
The NAFMP includes information on:
- developing a corporate culture of safety to support reductions in driver fatigue
- fatigue management education for drivers, management, shippers/receivers and dispatchers
- identifying potential sleep disorders
- fatigue management technologies
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Fatigue Management In Practice
Different workplaces will require different interventions to manage the risks of fatigue this will depend on the industry, types of work and job demands, as well as environmental conditions and individual factors.
The risks associated with fatigue can be managed by following a systematic process which involves2:
- Identifying the factors which may cause fatigue in the workplace
- If necessary, assessing the risks of injury from fatigue
- Controlling risks by implementing the most effective control measures reasonably practicable in the circumstances, and
- Reviewing control measures to ensure they are working as planned.
Consulting workers at each step of the risk management process encourages everyone to work together to identify fatigue risk factors and implement effective control measures. Consultation also helps to raise awareness about the risks of fatigue.
Managing Fatigue In The Workplace: Strategies For Employees And Employers
In the face of budget and staff cuts, many of us have to work harder, faster, and longer than ever before. While advanced technology and time-management techniques can help, these excessive workloads ultimately result in fatigue, which leads to more illness, errors, and accidents higher healthcare costs and decreased productivity. In total, the global cost of fatigue has surpassed $500 billion.
When employers play an active role in keeping their employees healthy, productive, and engaged, the company is more successful. Based on a survey of 352 human resources and/or health-benefits managers in the U.S. and Canada with 1000 employees or more, the companies with the most effective health and productivity programs had 11 percent higher revenue per employee and 28 percent higher shareholder returns. Read on to learn more about employee health, productivity, and workplace fatigue.
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Establish Nap Policies And Nap Rooms
In the 1990s, NASA experimented with the use of naps during long flights and found that 26 minutes of sleep improved cognitive performance by 34 percent and alertness by 54 percent. Currently, airline pilots on international flights alternate taking short naps to stay alert. More recent research shows brief naps can reduce sleepiness and improve cognitive performance for up to three hours afterward. Napping seems to be more beneficial for people who regularly nap, compared to people who only do so on occasion.
Researching Human Fatigue In The Workplace
Our final meeting for the year will take place on Thursday, 27th July, 12-2 pm, Wolfson Research Exchange 1
We would like to invite all active research staff and research students to a research staff network on Researching Human Fatigue in the Workplace.
- Are you researching how people get tired at work?
- Are you interested in measuring and modelling performance?
- Are you discovering how employees can recover from fatigue and how employers can prevent fatigue?
Then this is the network for you! Drinks and cakes will be provided to help fuel the discussions.
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Increase Movement Throughout The Day
Movement improves energy, mood, memory, body composition, health, and productivity. The more you sit, the greater your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death from all causes. That relationship holds true for regular exercisers who work out for an hour but still spend a lot of time sitting.
- Walk down the hall or take a few flights of stairs at least every 90 minutes
- Use a standing desk or modify your desk to allow for more standing time.
- Set up a walking meeting if you’re just meeting with one other person.
Shift Design And Rostering
Shift design and good rostering is a massively impactful fatigue management strategy for companies who manage workers engaging in shift work and non-normal schedules.
There is no perfect shift design or rostering, with every worker reacting a little differently to a certain schedule and many nuances creating variation in impact. When assessing how well your shift designs and rosters account for fatigue, you really need to think about the life of a person engaged in that schedule, as well as the risk associated with implementing that type of structure. From there, you may create different fatigue management strategies which align more closely to your chosen shift design and rostering.
Some good rules of thumb are:
- Provide workers with choice and flexibility
- Avoid extremely early morning starts where possible
- Restrict the number of successive night shifts
- Build regularly free blocks or weekends for workers where possible
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Phased Return To Work
If you have taken considerable time off work due to illness, consider requesting a phased return to work. Understandably after having time off work, going back to full-time hours immediately will impact you both physically and mentally. Building up time spent at work is a sensible way to manage this.