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Staying on top of fatigue

FEBRUARY 28, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As summer slowly starts to fade away, it’s still important to be consistently keeping on top of your wellbeing and making sure you’re not burning the candle out at both ends. Site Safe has developed some useful tips around recognising fatigue and ensuring you take the right steps to being on top of your game. 

With hot weather, longer days and work pressure, it can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the working day. In such busy times, fatigue can be a real hazard, so watch for signs and keep everyone safe.

What is fatigue? 

Fatigue is more than feeling drowsy. At work, it is a state of exhaustion that can be both mental and physical. It reduces a person’s ability to do their job safely and decreases performance and productivity.
 
Fatigue is often caused by a combination of factors, including:
 
  • The demands of work
  • Work scheduling and planning
  • Environmental conditions
  • Dehydration – symptoms include cracked lips, flushed face, dizziness, cramps or headaches
  • Drugs, alcohol or medication
  • The type of work activity, such as a noisy environment or using vibrating tools
  • Poor diet, a lack of exercise and disrupted sleep
  • Poor emotional wellbeing or stress

Identifying fatigue as a risk

The following signs can indicate that someone is fatigued:
 
  • Mood – person is irritable, uncommunicative, frustrated, disengaged, late for work or does not show up
  • Alertness – slurs speech, rubs eyes, yawning, appears tired
  • Performance – takes risks, forgetful, makes mistakes, poor decisions and judgement
  • Focus – loses the big picture, misses warning signs, has a fixed gaze, blurry vision, lack of focus

Take steps to prevent fatigue

Work scheduling and planning:
 
  • Take regular breaks and consider extra breaks if the work is demanding
  • If you need to work longer hours, consider staggered start and finish times and schedule longer breaks and periods off work
  • Think about how work is scheduled as alertness varies throughout the day. For most people, low points occur 3–5 am and 3–5 pm. During these times, try to avoid doing tricky or dangerous jobs
  • Monitor and limit overtime. Avoid incentives to work too many hours. If night work is required, limit the number of night shifts in a row employees can work. Also, place limits around shift swapping and on-call duties – regular sleep helps prevent fatigue
  • Create a positive environment
Mental and physical demands of work:
 
  • Use the right tools and resources for the job
  • Use low-vibration hand-held tools and, if practical, install low-vibration seats in machinery
  • Rotate tasks between workers
  • Stay hydrated and avoid caffeine
  • Make sure workloads and deadlines are realistic

Environmental conditions:

  • Avoid working during extreme heat or cold
  • Provide shelter and facilities for breaks
  • How much sleep is needed? 
  • Aim for between 7.5 and 8.5 hours a night. To work out your optimal sleep time, try the following on your next holiday:
  • Put away the alarm clock and wake up naturally for at least 2 days to overcome cumulative sleep loss.
  • For the next 3-4 days, write down how many hours you sleep.
  • Divide the total number of hours you have slept by the number of days to find how much sleep you need to maintain optimal alertness, performance and wellbeing.

Get the whole team on board 

Develop a fatigue policy that includes the maximum shift length, average weekly hours and travel time. Make sure everyone is aware of the policy, how to recognise fatigue and how to report risks and incidents.
 
©Site Safe. Reproduced with permission from Site Safe, 1 February 2019, https://www.sitesafe.org.nz

 

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