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Fatigue: A Risk Too Often Overlooked

Everyone has done it at one time or another: skip on sleep to meet a deadline or complete a job. Many workers regularly work overtime, sometimes for several days in a row. Fatigue affects our body and our mind; therefore, it also affects our work. Tired employees put their health and safety at risk as well as the safety of customers and colleagues.

Over time, people who regularly get 6 hours or less of sleep will find their reaction time has slowed from a quarter of a second to almost 4 seconds. That’s enough time to hit someone with a forklift or be able to get yourself or others out of harm’s way. They don’t call it split second decisions for nothing! But fatigue makes it harder to make that split second life saving decisions.

Understanding fatigue, recognizing it, and taking appropriate preventive measures can greatly increase your safety at work. Answer the following questions to assess your level of fatigue. You must answer each question with yes or no.

  1. I find it difficult to relax at the end of the day.

  2. I really can’t take anything more at the end of the day.

  3. My job is such that at the end of the day, I am completely exhausted.

  4. In general, I am still in pretty good shape after dinner.

  5. In general, I feel rested only after the second day off.

  6. I find it difficult to concentrate after work.

  7. When I arrive home after work, I barely have the energy to socialize with others.

  8. In general, I need more than an hour to recuperate after work.

  9. When I arrive home after work, I need peace and quiet.

  10. Often, the fatigue I feel after a day at work prevents me from doing other things.

  11. Often, the fatigue I feel a few hours before the end of my day at work is preventing me from being productive.

Researchers consider that people who answer yes (or no for question 4) to at least 6 questions are at risk of suffering adverse health effects due to fatigue.

Do you think fatigue is irrelevant? Losing as little as two hours of sleep can have negative effects:

  • reduced decision-making ability,

  • reduced productivity, moral and motivation

  • reduced attention and vigilance

  • reduced ability to handle stress on the job, mood swings

  • reduced reaction time (both in speed and thought)

  • loss of memory or the ability to recall details

  • unable to stay awake (falling asleep while operating machinery or driving a vehicle)

  • increased tendency for risk-taking

  • increased forgetfulness and increased errors in judgement

  • increased absenteeism due to sickness

If you are showing signs of fatigue, take it into account! Like all other occupational health and safety risk factors, excessive fatigue must and can be prevented.

Reducing Fatigue – Workers

  • Adopt a healthy diet and exercise regularly

  • Avoid alcohol and other stimulants

  • Create a routine prior to sleep and have a regular sleep schedule (no screens for at least one hour prior to going to bed)

  • Control stress in a healthy way

  • Take micro-breaks throughout the day

Reducing Fatigue – Employers

  • Ensure adequate lighting

  • Ensure acceptable temperature in working environment

  • Avoid prolonged excessive noise as much as possible

  • Rotate tasks during work shifts

  • Make rest areas available to workers (for breaks)

  • Make sure healthy snacks are available on site (not just vending machines with chocolates, chips, etc.).

  • Inform workers about fatigue and raise awareness of its effects

Make your rest time a priority - your life and the lives of others depends on it!


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