Many members will manage a team of construction workers who work a variety of shifts, some of which start very early in the morning.
You may be aware of some workers who are very tired on occasions which could lead to errors and accidents in the workplace. Here, we give you some information on the causes and management of being over-tired.
Fatigue, the feeling of tiredness and being unable to perform work effectively, is often a root cause of major accidents. Employers have a legal responsibility to manage the risks from fatigue – it should be managed like any other hazard. It is important that as a manager, you are aware of the causes of fatigue, what effect it can have on a person and how best to avoid or reduce fatigue.
CAUSES OF FATIGUE
The main factors are:
Less than eight hours sleep each night – either acute or cumulative
Working at a low point in the day e.g. early hours of the morning, mid to late afternoon and after a meal
Long working hours, particularly if these are as long at 14 to 16 hours
Poorly designed shift work where employees are working irregular shifts rather than forward rotating ones
Inadequate breaks during the working day
Poor physical working environment
Physically demanding work
Certain medical conditions e.g. diabetes, heart disease, epilepsy.
THE MAIN EFFECTS OF FATIGUE
Compared with their normal state, a fatigued person will:
Have difficulty in concentrating; making decisions or taking in and acting on information
Have more frequent lapses of attention or memory
React more slowly
Make more errors
Occasionally fall asleep at work – momentarily or for several minutes
Have little motivation or interest in their work
HOW TO REDUCE FATIGUE IN THE WORKPLACE
There are a number of things that can be done. As much as possible make sure employees’:
Working hours are not too long
Have the opportunity to sleep for at least eight hours between shifts
Do not work more than four night shifts in a row or two if they are 12 hour shifts
Have at least two days off after nights
Shifts rotate ‘forwards – mornings, then afternoons, then nights
Avoid long shifts, double shifts and too much overtime
Take quality rest breaks i.e. they should physically stop work for an allocated period of time for refreshments and food and allow their bodies to rest
Do interesting and varied work at night and other low points but make sure these are not too demanding or too monotonous/repetitive. Critical jobs should be avoided at these times.
Try to fit in with individual preferences – some people are ‘morning people’ others are ‘night people’
Ensure that the work environment doesn’t cause drowsiness – there should be as much light as possible, it should not be too hot and there should be a variation in the level of sound
Carry out thorough investigations on incidents or accidents where fatigue may be responsible.
WHAT EMPLOYERS HAVE TO DO TO PROTECT EMPLOYEES FROM FATIGUE IN THE WORKPLACE Employers have a general duty of care under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to minimise the risk to the health and safety of all employees whilst at work. Suitable and sufficient risk assessments should be carried out the workplace and individual roles within the organisation. Hazards should be identified and risks either eliminated or minimised.
WHO CAN HELP IF AN EMPLOYEE IS FATIGUED
Their company doctor or GP
Their safety representative
The Health & Safety Executive