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Workplace Fatigue

It's normal to feel tired, exhausted or run down after lengths of mental or physical work.

Fatigue, is more than feeling tired or rundown. 'It is an acute and/or ongoing state of tiredness that leads to mental or physical exhaustion and prevents people from functioning within normal boundaries'.

Working long hours, with intense mental or physical effort, or during some or all of the natural time for sleep, can cause fatigue. All of these have obvious implications for workplace and public safety.
Fatigue can be caused slowly overtime if your health isn't kept in order. This can include not getting enough sleep and not eating properly.

Some of the work related causes of fatigue are:

  • roster patterns
  • length of shifts
  • poor work scheduling and planning
  • length of time worked
  • timing of shifts (eg night shift)
  • insufficient recovery time between shifts
  • type of work being undertaken (eg under-demand/over-demand)
  • mentally or physically demanding work
  • inadequate rest breaks

So What Are The Risks?

The effects of fatigue on health and work performance can be short term and long term. Short-term effects on an individual include impaired work performance, such as the reduced ability to:

  • concentrate and avoid distraction
  • think laterally and analytically
  • make decisions
  • remember and recall events and their sequences
  • maintain vigilance
  • control emotions
  • appreciate complex situations
  • recognise risks
  • coordinate hand-eye movements, and
  • communicate effectively.

Fatigue can also:

  • increase error rates
  • slow reaction times
  • increase the likelihood of accidents and injuries, and
  • cause micro-sleeps.

Long-term effects

Long-term effects on health that are associated with shiftwork and chronic sleep loss may include:

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • gastrointestinal disorders
  • depression, and
  • anxiety.

Safety Basics - Fatigue Avoidance


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