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Keep alert for work-related fatigue

Many workers and employers work extended hours during the Christmas rush as they try to meet demand and complete jobs before the holidays start. Retailers, warehouses, road transport companies, tradespeople, manufacturers and numerous others may be exposed to work-related fatigue during this time.


Fatigue is more than feeling tired - it is a state of mental or physical exhaustion that reduces a person's ability to perform work safely and effectively. Signs of fatigue include:

  • tiredness even after sleep
  • reduced hand-eye coordination or slow reflexes
  • short term memory problems and an inability to concentrate
  • blurred vision or impaired visual perception
  • need for extended sleep during days off work.

The ability to think clearly is essential when making safety-related decisions and this can be impaired when mental or physical exhaustion sets in. Everyone needs time to rest and recover to ensure they don't make a mistake at work that threatens their own safety or that of another worker.

The level of fatigue varies for individuals as it is dependent on sleep, workload, length of shift, previous hours and days worked, time of day or night worked, and driving times to and from work. However, we know that staying awake for 17 hours has a similar negative effect on performance as driving over the legal blood alcohol limit of 0.05 per cent.

Workers and employers need to work together to manage fatigue during the silly season. Workers should ensure they are fit for duty and raise any concerns about workloads, rostered hours of work, overtime, or work pressures with their employer. Employers have legal responsibilities for protecting their workers from the adverse effects of fatigue.

Suitable strategies to manage the risks associated with fatigue will vary from one workplace to the next, depending on the nature of the work, environmental conditions and individual factors. However, the risks associated with fatigue can be managed by following a systematic process which involves:

  • identifying the factors which may cause fatigue in the workplace
  • if necessary, assessing the risks of injury from fatigue
  • controlling risks by implementing the most effective control measures reasonably practicable in the circumstances
  • reviewing control measures to ensure they are working as planned.

Further information

For more information visit or call 1300 362 128.

Last updated
21 December 2016

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