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Staying Alert: What is Fatigue and How to Avoid it Becoming an Issue

27/07/2020

It’s no secret being a tradie is a very physically and mentally demanding job. With long workdays and weeks placing the body under intense physical and mental strain. 

Worker fatigue is one of the biggest hazards on-site, particularly during colder months.

Fatigue can come in many different forms and be caused by a number of different factors. While fatigue may not be avoidable in today’s busy cycle, it is important we recognise the signs of fatigue and steps to reduce it. 

Because at the end of the day, a tired worker is a dangerous worker. 

 

Responsibilities for managing fatigue 

When you are fatigued you’re less alert and aware of your environment. This can lead to increased risk of errors resulting in injuries or accidents on-site. 

On-site it’s both the individuals and the PCBUs (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) responsibility to recognise and reduce worker fatigue. 

 

PBCU

As the primary on-site you are required to provide a safe working environment, and reducing fatigue is included. Here are a few strategies for ensuring everyone stays fresh. 

  • Working schedules – Make sure your team aren’t working too many days in a row or too many long shifts, get your team to take regular breaks and schedule tasks throughout the day to maximise peak energy periods. 
  • Sleep – design rosters or workweeks in a way that doesn’t negatively impact normal sleep patterns too much
  • Ask questions – be sure to check in with your team. Ask how they are feeling, ask about their personal life and be aware of personal circumstances that may be impacting their energy levels at work 
  • Avoid extreme conditions – working in extreme heat or cold weather is extremely draining. Limit prolonged exposure to these conditions if possible
  • Understand your team – everyone in your team or on-site is different. Make sure workloads and requests are manageable and within skill/ experience levels
  • Develop a fatigue policy and plan – this will formalise everyone’s role in reducing fatigue on-site. This should clearly outline all of the above points. 

 

Workers

Workers are also personally responsible for turning up every day in the best mental and physical conditions possible. Workers should: 

  • Put themselves in a position to get the most sleep and recovery as possible between shifts and workweeks 
  • Inform their boss or PCBU if their circumstances change or if there is anything affecting their energy levels which may impact their ability to work
  • Know and listen to their body, and take action when it’s saying “I’m tired!”
  • Report fatigue-related incidents, whether it is them personally or another on-site

 

Practical steps for managing fatigue in colder months 

During winter, fatigue levels tend to increase. With the colder temperatures, longer nights and reduced sunlight, our bodies naturally tend to shut down earlier in the day. To counter this, there are a few steps you can take. 

  • Enjoy the sun and get outdoors as much as possible during your day
  • Prioritise good sleep. Everyone needs somewhere between 6-9 hours of sleep a night. Getting good quality uninterrupted sleep will help recharge the batteries and fight off the winter drowsiness
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise will help keep you energised and can actually help you sleep 
  • Relax, don’t stress. 
  • Eat well and fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to recover and sustain itself

 

Fatigue is something that we all face in our busy work lives. And, it is often unavoidable. However, it is critical we can recognise the signs of fatigue in ourselves or someone on-site. 

By being able to recognise the signs and take the necessary steps to help is the best way to reduce fatigue-related problems on-site. 

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