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Fatigue: How to fight this workplace hazard

Be concerned, it impacts work performance in several ways.

February 28, 2018   by CCOHS

An impairment that affects people differently.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA

Cold, dark mornings, darker afternoons and early evenings characterize late autumn and winter. Feeling tired or rundown is often attributed to the time of year, but any number of other factors may be the cause.

Fatigue is the state of feeling very tired, weary, or sleepy as a result of too little sleep, prolonged mental and physical work, extended periods of stress or anxiety. Boring and repetitive tasks also intensify fatigue. It impacts work performance, something that should concern employers and supervisors.

Factors that may influence fatigue are shift rotation patterns, balanced workloads, timing of tasks and activities, availability of resources and the workplace environment (lighting, ventilation, temperature).

It’s a form of impairment that affects people differently, but an Alberta labour department report notes fatigue increases exposure to hazards by: reducing mental and physical functioning; impairing judgement and concentration;lowering motivation: slowing reaction time; and increasing risk-taking behaviour.

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Lack of sleep

Some studies have shown that when workers have slept for less than five hours before work or have been awake for more than 16 hours, their chance of making a mistake is significantly increased.

Here are some tips for fighting fatigue:

• Ensure the work environment does not promote fatigue. Avoid dim lighting, toasty warm temperatures and excessive noise.

• Vary job tasks to eliminate repetition or long periods of boring, monotonous work.

• Incorporate and encourage taking breaks.

• Train workers on the importance of getting enough rest (7.5 to 8.5 hours) and how to achieve work-life balance.

• Introduce shorter shifts and rotate shifts in the direction of the sun.

Workers can fight fatigue by maintaining a healthy diet that promotes longer-lasting energy. Complex carbohydrates (green vegetables, beans, grains) are preferable to simple carbohydrates (sugars) and they should avoid fatty and junky food.

A steady exercise routine should include cardiovascular, muscle strengthening and flexibility workouts while staying positive and avoiding being overwhelmed by negative circumstances.

Fatigue is not easily measured or qualified, so it’s difficult to isolate its impact on accident and injury rates. Being aware of its effects and observing changes in behaviour will help identify and deal with fatigue in the workplace.

This article was contributed by the Hamilton-based Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). It provides information, training, education, management systems and solutions that support health and safety programs and the prevention of injury and illness in the workplace. Visit www.ccohs.ca.


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