Fatigue is a common problem in many industries. Yet, many companies are failing to recognise workplace fatigue as a critical business risk and cost. Increasing pressure to perform and a ‘do more with less’ attitude means that fatigue is a growing problem for workers.
Workplace fatigue is mental or physical exhaustion that impacts the ability to work effectively and safely.
Leslie Tarnacki, VP and GM, WFS: A WorkForce Software Company (WFS Australia) said, “It’s a well-known fact that tired workers aren’t alert and can’t perform at optimum speed or efficiency. When you roster employees who haven’t had required breaks, you’re simply not getting the most out of them. Productivity plummets.”
“Implementing a fatigue management strategy can address these issues. Managing fatigue is a complex and multi-faceted issue that needs to focus on measuring the mental fatigue of workers, a joint responsibility between employee and employer.”
WFS Australia advises four steps for organisations to effectively manage fatigue in the workplace:
1. Proactive monitoring
Monitor productivity, product quality, client retention and similar statistics. This can identify where fatigue might be an issue. Review existing rosters and patterns, work environments, and job responsibilities to ensure you are getting the best from your employees and are protecting them from fatigue. For example are you experiencing quality issues during a period where there is a lot of overtime?
2. Track hours worked
Businesses should actively track employees’ hours worked, activities performed and absences. This will ensure adequate rest is being taken between shifts. It will also mean a sufficient number of days off are taken during a specific period of time and help to identify fatigue-inducing jobs or shifts. Tracking hours gives a much richer understanding of the prevalence and depth of employee fatigue within an organisation.
3. Use risk scoring to manage rostering
Use an individual’s time and activities, break and shift patterns, and other factors to create a fatigue risk score. Rules can then be assigned to certain risk scores, for example restricting the type of tasks an employee can undertake until they have rested.
4. Implement programs and policies to minimise fatigue impact
Implement measures to ensure that potentially fatigued employees are flagged before rosters are finalised. There are software systems which can track this data for you and automatically alert managers when a potentially fatigued employee is rosterd to work. Consider training staff to recognise the signs of fatigue in both themselves and their colleagues.
Fatigue management should be top of mind for employers in any industry but particularly those that require employees to work long hours or operate heavy machinery, and where being alert is critical to people’s safety.
Leslie Tarnacki said, “A well-executed fatigue management system can help improve a business’s bottom line by improving productivity and raising morale, reducing revenue lost to sick leave, lowering the number of accidents/work mishaps and decreasing the risk of fines and litigation.”