A fatigued worker is like a drunk worker: the importance of monitoring fatigue in the workplace 

Fatigue goes beyond the feeling of just being tired, and can be described as extreme mental and/or physical exhaustion. 

It is well established that fatigue reduces the capacity of a person to work safely. Research shows that it can impair a person’s abilities to the same degree as excessive alcohol consumption. Fatigue influences a worker’s balance, judgment, large and fine motor skills, focus, and even their memory. As such, it can severely impair someone’s ability to carry out even simple tasks, may pose a significant health and safety hazard in a workplace, and carry large costs to individuals and businesses. 

How do workers become fatigued? 

There are a range of factors that may contribute to fatigue. This includes work schedules that disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, such as occur in workers who work long or irregular hours or night shifts. 

Prolonged exposure to certain environmental factors can also cause fatigue, including noise, extreme heat or cold, suboptimal lighting, and vibrations. 

Additionally, high workloads, extended periods of mental or physical activity, monotonous work, and insufficient break times may impact on worker fatigue, as may a lack of sleep. 

Warning signs to watch out for

Some signs of fatigue to watch out for in your workplace include: 

  • Increase in absenteeism 
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to concentrate 
  • Issues with short-term memory
  • Drowsiness, yawning, or falling asleep 
  • Difficulty engaging with others
  • Repeated tardiness 
  • Poor hand-eye coordination or sedate reflexes
  • Increased mistakes, poor judgment or increase in risk-taking behaviour

The cost of fatigue 

Worker fatigue increases the risk of injuries and incidents within the workplace carrying a large societal cost. 

Moreover, they carry significant cost to businesses in terms of sick leave, lost time, damage to equipment or raw materials, incident or accident investigations, fines, delays to work schedules, training new staff, accident compensation, and even damage to the reputation of a business. 

Furthermore, fatigue causes cognitive decline and reduces worker focus. This means that its effects extend to increased absenteeism and reduced productivity. 

Additionally, the impacts of fatigue may be felt by workers resulting in long-term health issues, such as: 

  • Diabetes 
  • Heart disease
  • Mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety
  • Reduced fertility 
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive issues

Monitoring fatigue in your business 

The costs associated with fatigue alone makes a compelling case that businesses should invest some time into monitoring for fatigue risks. Not only can this help your business mitigate the risks of fatigue related injuries or fatalities, but it can also help you achieve greater productivity levels into the future and bolster your business reputation. 

If you are not currently monitoring fatigue risks in your business, you might want to consider implementing a fatigue-monitoring regime. 

Our customisable online health and safety system, GOSH offers a way to report fatigue quickly and easily and may be a useful starting point for implementing fatigue management within your business. 

If you would like to find out more about GOSH or managing fatigue, please contact us by email here

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