5 January 2020 posted by Recovery Partners

How to minimise the effects of fatigue

It’s not just a question of being “a little bit tired”, especially when you’re behind the wheel of a car or operating heavy machinery.  The effects of fatigue are serious and far-reaching.  This is simply not an issue that can be ignored if we care about the well-being of ourselves, our family and friends, and our colleagues.   

We drastically underestimate just how significant a problem fatigue can be.  Not only is it increasingly more prevalent among almost all segments of the population, it has effects that pose an alarming threat to health and safety each and every day.

 Download our free Fatigue Fact Sheet here

Fatigue: an introduction

There are several different causes of fatigue, some of which tend to go under the radar.  Let’s go over the circumstances and habits that could be causing your tiredness here.

  • Being deprived of enough sleep and/or sleeping poorly
  • Being awake and active for long hours, including long hours of work
  • Health and emotional issues
  • Intake of alcohol and drugs
  • Poor nutrition

Do you know how to tell if you are fatigued?  Let’s go over the signs here:

  • Problems with concentration
  • Drowsiness
  • Head nodding
  • Experiencing blurred vision
  • Problems keeping your eyes open

Fatigue and driving:

One of the most dangerous things you can do when fatigued is drive.  According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau,  “most experts estimate that 20 per cent to 30 per cent of fatal road crashes could result from driver fatigue.”  Fatigue adversely affects physical reaction time, perception of height, accuracy, and even skill level. 

How can we minimise the effects of fatigue?

Now that we’ve explored the causes and dangers of fatigue, it’s time to consider what we can do to prevent fatigue and reduce its effects.  Let’s go over some tips below.  They could be live-changing (or life-saving):

  • Always get enough rest and sleep. You need at least eight hours of sleep each night (some experts say between seven and nine).
  • You must have a minimum period of rest of at least 10 hours between two shifts of work.
  • If travelling long distances by car, share the driving if possible.
  • Stay well-hydrated at all times.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Rather than having big meals, think about eating lightly and more frequently.

Fatigue at work:

Being in a fatigued state can be a dangerous situation in many occupations.  If you operate machinery, it can be an especially serious hazard. 

Certain workers tend to be at a higher risk of fatigue than others.  These include:

  • Medical professionals and other health workers
  • Emergency service workers
  • On-call and call-back workers
  • Seasonal workers
  • Shift workers
  • Night workers
  • Drive-in, drive-out workers
  • Fly-in, fly-out workers

Examples of work situations in which fatigue can be especially dangerous include:

  • Hazardous work, such as electrical work, work with machinery, or work with explosive or flammable substances
  • Work that involves driving a vehicle, such as taxi or truck driving
  • Work that is done at heights, such as certain construction jobs
  • Work in medical and surgical settings

Some of the ways we can identify factors that can lead to worker fatigue include:

  • Examination of human resource data and workplace incident data
  • Reviewing worker records, as well as work systems and practices
  • Working with health and safety representatives, supervisors, and managers to determine the impact of work schedules and workloads

How can we deal with the problem of workplace fatigue?

Steps that can be taken to reduce fatigue in the workplace include:

  • Creation of workplace fatigue policy
  • Consideration of environmental conditions
  • Adjustment of job demands
  • Changes to shift work, rostering systems, and scheduling systems

Remember, we have the tools to deal with fatigue

While fatigue is a prevalent and serious problem in Australia, tools to understand and minimise its effects are at our disposal.  It is up to us to use them.  If the necessary steps aren’t taken, the well-being and lives of Australians will be at risk.

Find out more on Fatigue Management here

For more information on fatigue, and strategies to help make your workplace safer, you can make enquiries here.

Alternatively, our consultants love to have a chat, so go ahead and give us a call on 1300 OHS RTW (647 789).

References

“Avoiding Fatigue”, http://www.rrp.com.au/safety-blog/avoiding-fatigue

“Fatigue-related crashes: An analysis of fatigue-related crashes on Australian roads using an operational definition of fatigue”, https://infrastructure.gov.au/roads/safety/publications/2002/pdf/Fatigue_related_sum.pdf

“Fatigue”, https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/fatigue

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au