Fatigue management is a shared responsibility between management and workers as it involves factors both inside and outside of work. Employers and persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) are responsible for using a risk management approach to manage fatigue.
OHSA has assisted a number of industries deal with fatigue related matters including:
The Guide for managing the risk of fatigue at work provides practical guidance for PCBUs and managers on how to manage fatigue to ensure it does not contribute to health and safety risks in the workplace.
There are four basic steps in the risk management process, as outlined in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (PDF, 833 KB). They include:
For more information on how to use the risk management approach to meet workplace health and safety obligations, refer to the How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice 2011(PDF, 1018.6 KB) .
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 aren’t required to work unnecessary extended hours by:
Where overtime is concerned:
Shift work can be a contributing factor in work-related fatigue. Ensure the roster provides for a continuous 7 to 8 hours sleep in each 24 hours, and at least 50 hours sleep for every seven days.
If on a rotating three shift roster system, forward rotation (day, afternoon to night shifts) is tolerated better.
When determining your work schedules:
Minimise early morning starts before 6am as workers have less time to get adequate sleep – it is very difficult to go to sleep during the early evening (6–9pm) as our body clocks are set to alertness at that time.
Consider the following:
Sleep inertia can occur if a person is woken after sleeping for more than 40 minutes. They may be slow to respond, may feel drowsy and disoriented. It may it may take up to 30 minutes before complex tasks can be performed efficiently.
This has implications for safety when workers are on-call for emergencies. Suggested measures to control sleep inertia and the subsequent impairment in work performance include:
Time spent away from the work environment allows workers to recover from fatigue and improve performance, vigilance, safety and efficiency. For this reason breaks should be taken during work shifts, and should not be traded for an early finish time.
Extended working hours increase the risk of exposure to hazards such as noise, heat and chemicals and should be carefully monitored. National and international exposure standards are usually based on five 8 hour days per week. Workplaces where extended hours are worked will need to monitor exposure levels.
It is recommended that expert advice is sought in adjusting exposure levels, because the increased exposure of workers over a 10 hour shift may not be simply 1.25 times the exposure for eight hours. Models need to be used, to take into account the reduced recovery time after exposure to hazards when extended shifts are worked. Workplaces should always aim for best practice, to keep all exposures significantly below the specified standards which will ensure workers are not over-exposed to a hazard.
The prolonged performance of repetitive tasks without the adequate chance of rest and recovery may result in an occupational overuse injury. The risk of a musculoskeletal injury occurring may also be increased within extended shifts due to the cumulative effects of muscle fatigue, strains and sprains. Workers involved in repetitive manual tasks should have regular breaks.
The Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice 2011 (PDF, 2193.82 KB) provides guidance on eliminating and controlling risks associated with manual handling.