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New guidance on managing fatigue

A new guide, Preventing and managing fatigue related risk in the workplace ((PDF, 1.45 MB)) has been published by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland on the effect fatigue has on drivers, shift workers, plant operators and those who are required to concentrate highly.

Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness with a gradual onset, reducing alertness, which can cause errors and injuries. Long term impacts can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety and depression.

Fatigue can be related to work, environment and lifestyle factors, as well as general wellbeing, rather than an underlying medical condition. Tired muscles can recover with rest, but the brain can only recover with sleep.

Optimum sleep time varies, with an adult generally requiring seven to eight hours of sleep daily. Each extra day without enough sleep increases the risk of fatigue. Drivers who have been awake for 24 hours are seven times more likely to have an accident.

Examples of controls used to manage fatigue include:

  • developing a fatigue management policy with workers and encouraging them to report health and safety concerns
  • consulting with workers and seeking their input on development of controls and workplace issues
  • preparing for when workers may have longer hours and shifts and ensuring they get breaks and are hydrated
  • conducting frequent safety audits, holding frequent WHS meetings and providing induction and refresher inductions and training
  • providing facilities for rest, sleep, meal breaks and hydration
  • providing and maintaining safe, fit-for-purpose plant, machinery and equipment, and appropriate training according to the environment and employee level of skill
  • providing education on the symptoms of fatigue and healthy lifestyle behaviours to combat it (e.g. good nutrition, physical activity and stress management)
  • promoting employment assistance programs such as counselling, financial management, health and wellbeing.

Control measures should be regularly monitored and reviewed, so consider implementing trial periods for any new work schedules and having workers provide feedback.

Further information

For more information on managing fatigue and creating a mentally healthy workplace, go to worksafe.qld.gov.au/