Date PostedJanuary 2, 2013

How to set up a fatigue risk management system in your workplace

Fatigue systemIt is not only in the best interest of every workplace to manage fatigue but it is also a requirement under the Work Health and Safety legislation to ensure that the health and welfare of workers is looked after.

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is more than feeling a little bit tired. It is an ongoing feeling of lethargy accompanied by a lack of energy. Sufferers experience many symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, trouble with logical thinking, irritability and sleepiness.

The longer that fatigue is an issue for a person and they don’t get the rest and sleep they need the more difficult it is for them to understand that they are affected and identify the symptoms.

Creating a fatigue management system for your workplace

If you need to set up a system in your workplace it is much easier if you break it down into the following steps:

  1. Look at the workplace and identify the hazards
  2. Then assess the risks that may be the result of these hazards
  3. Work out appropriate control measures to reduce the risks
  4. Make sure that the control measures are implemented
  5. Monitor and assess how effective that the implemented controls are at reducing the risks

Lets now have a look at each one of theses steps in depth and how they apply to reducing fatigue.

Step One: Identify

The first step is to gain an understanding of the factors within your workplace that may be contributing to the fatigue of your workers. Some of the key ways that you can do this include:

  • Assessing the rostering system within the workplace
  • Talking to workers and getting their feedback regarding incidents and near misses
  • Meet with your workplace health and safety representatives
  • Audit safety within your workplace
  • Create a survey that your workers can fill out anonymously
  • Look at the records of incidents and the trends of injuries, what tends to happen when workers are fatigued?

Step Two: Assess

What you are looking for here are risks from the hazards that may cause death, injury or illness. To be able to fully understand risk you need to look at both the likelihood of occurrence as well as the potential outcome.

Things that can be considered when looking at the contributing factors to fatigue include:

  • When in the day: It is more likely for incidents to occur during circadian low points
  • The length of rostered shifts because fatigue accumulates
  • The time allowed between shifts to rest and recover
  • How often does a particular incident happen?
  • How many workers are affected by fatigue?
  • Are workers trained in managing fatigue?
  • What is the level of risk in the work that staff are involved in?

Step Three: Controls

The control measures are what will help you to reduce worker fatigue in the workplace by reducing the impact of the identified risk factors.

Where possible it is best to eliminate the factor but if a combination of factors are creating a risk then it may be ideal to use a combination of measure to control the risk.

Step Four: Implementation

Of course once you have completed stages one to three you need to be able to then make sure that the control measures that have been decided on are implemented within the workplace.

Ways of doing this may include:

  • Creating processes and procedures
  • Effectively communicating these and the control measures to all of the workers – consider if they need to be in multiple languages
  • Make sure that all workers are trained in using the new control measures
  • Ensure that appropriate supervision is applied at all times

Step Five: Evaluation

Ongoing evaluation of your fatigue management process is important to ensure that it is effective. During this process you can ask whether:

  • The intended control measures have been implemented
  • They being effective or do they need to be revised
  • There new issues that need to be addressed

The best way for any workplace to manage fatigue is to ensure there is a system that is monitored and reviewed on a regular basis

Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning and web strategy firm based in George St Brisbane. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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