Fatigue in the Workplace

Public news

Every business can be affected to some degree by work-related fatigue.

Fatigue can have a significant negative impact on individuals and the workplace. Like all work health and safety hazards, it needs to be managed.

Everyone at work has a responsibility for health and safety, both physical and psychological, and to ensure that fatigue does not create a risk to their own or anyone else’s health and safety.

Fatigue is more than just feeling a little drowsy. It’s a state of mental and/or physical exhaustion which reduces your ability to remain alert and adversely affects your capacity to do your work safely and effectively. Both work and non-work-related factors or a combination of both can cause fatigue, which can also accumulate over time.

The effects of fatigue on work performance can be compared with the effects of alcohol. Being awake for 17 hours impairs performance to the same level as having a 0.05 blood alcohol content, while being awake for 20 hours has the same effect as a 0.1 blood alcohol content.

Signs or symptoms that may indicate fatigue include:

  • excessive yawning or falling asleep at work
  • short-term memory problems
  • inability to concentrate
  • noticeably reduced capacity to engage in effective interpersonal communication
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • reduced hand-eye coordination or slow reflexes
  • other changes in behaviour, for example repeatedly arriving late for work
  • increased rates of unplanned absence.

For possible solutions to managing workplace fatigue, look at:

  • designing work rosters so that workers have enough recovery time between shifts
  • avoiding or minimising work during periods of extreme heat or cold
  • rotating jobs to limit a build-up of mental and physical fatigue
  • planning for job demands during expected peaks and troughs in work flow throughout the year
  • ensuring workers take adequate and regular breaks to rest, eat and rehydrate
  • encouraging workers to report any concerns they may have about work-related fatigue.

More information can be found in the Safe Work Australia Fatigue Guide.