Date PostedJanuary 7, 2013

Preventing Fatigue in the Workplace

manage driver fatigueFatigue can have catastrophic consequences in the workplace if it is not addressed and as with anything it is much better and easier to prevent fatigue that to treat it in workers after it has occurred.

WorkCover NSW has a downloadable guide that can assist workplaces in creating long term sustainable strategies around fatigue prevention. The guide is at and some of the information included:

Interaction with other hazards

When taking a risk management approach to fatigue, it is very important to look at how fatigue can interact with other workplace hazards. Some hazards that can be increased when working extended hours are manual tasks and exposure to hazardous chemicals, dust and noise.

Manual tasks

The risk of a musculoskeletal injury increases during an extended shift due to the cumulative effects of muscle fatigue, strains and sprains, i.e. the risk of injury is significantly higher during a 12-hour shift than during a normal eight-hour shift.

Workers who perform repetitive manual tasks should have regular rest breaks. Injuries usually occur towards the end of a shift.

Exposure levels

Exposure to hazards, such as noise, heat and chemicals, may also increase during extended working hours. Exposure should be carefully monitored and exposure levels adjusted. National and international exposure standards are usually based on five eight-hour days per week.

Seek expert advice when adjusting exposure levels. Exposure during a 10-hour workday, for example, may not equate to 1.25 times the exposure experienced during an eight-hour shift. The reduced recovery time after being exposed to a hazard during an extended shift also needs to be accounted for. Aim for best practice, keep all exposures significantly below the specified standards and allow for daily variations in exposure levels.


A risk management approach is very common when it comes to preventing fatigue in the workplace. By identifying hazards and breaking down risks it allows for the easy management of fatigue for all of the workers involved.

Difficulties arise when workers are not aware that they are suffering from fatigue so having positive strategies to prevent fatigue occurring in the first place is a much better option.

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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