Fatigue describes a general state of decreased mental and physical capacity resulting from a lack of sufficient restorative sleep or a disruption of the circadian rhythm; the natural biological clock that drives the body's cycle of sleeping at night and waking in the morning. Fatigue is often exacerbated by on-the-job stress and poor personal habits. Working night shifts, running double shifts and often stress or anxiety present throughout the day on the job are carried into the time designated for rest and are part of the normal forces behind lack of proper sleep. These factors can place employees at a higher risk for experiencing the detrimental impact of fatigue on the job affecting both their performance and personal health.
Education is the first step taken when it comes to addressing job-related fatigue. Knowledgeable employees are more likely to embrace change, especially change that affects off-duty behavior, if they understand and appreciate fully the effect of fatigue on their work and in their lives. Employees should be aware of the onset of symptoms present pertaining to fatigue and know to notify their supervisors of such symptoms including general tiredness and lack of mental acuity promptly. Supervisors should provide fatigue awareness training for their employees, ensure implementation of such policies and respond to any employee questions and concerns and facilitate corrective actions in a timely manner.
Some helpful ideas to include when developing a fatigue management program are:
- roles and responsibilities of supervisors and workers
- maximum shift length, average weekly hours and total hours over a three-month period
- work-related travel
- control measures for specific tasks, jobs and operations
- self-assessment checklists
- procedures for reporting potential hazards and fatigue risks, and
- procedures for managing fatigued workers, including what will happen if they are too fatigued to continue work