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Fatigue creates ‘perfect storm’ for injuries

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Fatigue puts worker safety at risk, particularly over the busy festive season and so it’s important to keep the focus on injury prevention as the year comes to a close.

The ‘perfect storm’ for increase in injuries

  • Increased workloads – while some businesses might be wrapping up for the year, work can be more hectic than usual in other industries, such as accommodation and food services, transport, and retail.
  • Cutting corners – trying to get the job done to tight schedules can result in safety procedures not being followed, or cutting corners to meet deadlines.
  • Fatigue – work tiredness can set in as it may have been a few months since holidays.

What are the most common injuries?

Musculoskeletal disorders, otherwise known as ‘sprains and strains’, are the most common type of occupational injuries that result in lost time, medical and rehabilitation expenses.

The hazards which most often cause these injuries are:

  • lifting, carrying or putting down objects
  • manual tasks, often involving overexertion, repetitive movement or awkward postures
  • slips, trips and falls.

Top tips to manage fatigue

WorkCover is keen to work with employers to help them reduce these types of injuries, keeping claims costs down, which may help to reduce their premium. There are some preventative measures employers can implement to reduce the risk of fatigue:

  • Limit extended hours of work – monitor the hours workers are doing each day, and ensure they aren’t required to work unnecessary extended hours by allowing for sufficient cover for workers who are on annual or sick leave, and planning for overtime where necessary ahead of time, with appropriate limits in place
  • Shiftwork – ensure roster provides for a continuous seven to eight hours’ sleep in each 24 hours, and at least 50 hours’ sleep for every seven days.
  • Time of day – minimise early morning starts before 6am as workers’ body clocks will likely prevent them from getting adequate sleep in this timeframe.
  • Roster and work design – increasing supervision, allowing regular breaks, giving workers two successive full days off within a seven-day period, and avoiding safety-critical tasks during 3-5am are other factors to consider to manage fatigue.

Find out more about work-related fatigue, including risk management factors to consider, and practical guides for both employers and workers.

Safe Work Australia’s Managing the risk of fatigue guide features case studies, which provide examples of ways to manage the risk of fatigue in particular industries, including transport, manufacturing, health, and emergency services.

Last updated
14 June 2017