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Fatigue Management in the Workplace

Fatigue is defined as extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness. The term fatigue is sometimes used to describe sleepiness or being drowsy, though they are actually different conditions. Sleepiness is the likelihood to fall asleep, whereas fatigue is more of a physical and mental state of exhaustion. When put in the context of work, fatigue could mean a physical or mental state of exhaustion that could affect the ability of an individual to perform work safely and effectively.

Some of the signs of fatigue include tiredness, feeling sleepy or drowsy, inability to concentrate, short-term memory problems, blurred vision, and in some cases, the need for more sleep during off days. Fatigue can be caused by a variety of other factors besides the lack of sleep or quality sleep. Work-related fatigue is usually caused by heavy workloads, working excessive long shifts, working very strenuous or overexerting jobs or commuting long hours to and from work.

Fatigue is a work-related hazard that can greatly affect the safety and health of workers. It affects alertness, which may increase the risk of incidents, and can also slow down the reaction of workers and affect their ability to make sound decisions when operating vehicles or machinery or undertaking other critical tasks. According to research gathered by the National Safety Council (NSC), a driver is three times more likely to be in a vehicle crash if fatigued. A study published in the Journal for Occupational and Environmental Medicine states that fatigue causes an estimated $136 billion per year in health-related lost productivity for US employers.

The significant impact that fatigue has on the safety and health of workers warrants the need for employers to adopt and implement measures that could reduce the risk of employees involved in work-related incidents. At Faith Technologies, we have a fatigue management policy that allows management and employees to take necessary steps in managing fatigue, including limiting the amount of work hours, managing workloads, taking frequent breaks, performing job rotations and avoiding overexertion. Employees are also encouraged to take personal responsibility for their safety and health by making sure they are getting enough sleep, monitoring their level of alertness, looking for signs of fatigue in their co-workers and seeking medical assistance if they experience signs of fatigue.

Fatigue is a safety and health risk that affects both the physical and mental well-being of an individual. Studies have also confirmed that fatigue-related costs to US employers are tremendous. There is no doubt that implementing fatigue risk management policies in the workplace is beneficial to employees and employers.