What is the cost of fatigue?

Fatigue Square

It’s quite common for people to feel tired or rundown throughout the day. However excessive tiredness or fatigue can negatively impact performance at work (Medical news today, 2017). So what is fatigue?

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), fatigue is considered as “the issues that arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns”. Fatigue can have many types of effects on people including; slower reactions, reduced energy, absent-mindedness, decreased awareness, lack of attention etc. The effects of fatigue can also be intensified from boring, monotonous or repetitive tasks.

Employers or supervisors should take into consideration the effects of fatigue on their employees, as it can seriously affect their performance at work. Mistakes caused due to fatigue can also have serious costs or implications to an organisation. It is said to cost the UK around £115 – £240 million per year in terms of work accidents. (HSE, 2017).

The Clapham Junction rail crash in 1988 took lives of 35 people and resulted in over 500 people being injured. The accident happened due to a signal failure caused by faulty wiring. However, further investigation found that the signalling technician who was responsible of the wiring had worked a seven-day week for the previous 13 weeks! The constant repetition of weekend work affected the signalling technicians working edge, freshness and concentration. Along with the above, fatigue has even been stated as the main contributor towards some major accidents including; Chernobyl disaster, Challenger explosion and Exxon Valdez oil spill (Crossrail).

Organisations should follow some simple steps to help fight the effects of fatigue on their employees:

  • The work environment should be clean with adequate lighting and heating.
  • Encourage all members of staff to tackle a variety of tasks that requires different mental and physical demands.
  • Staff should take regular breaks to help improve concentration and clear their mind. Encourage them to move their muscles or walk around every 60-90 minutes.
  • Highlight the importance of a good work-life balance and getting enough rest. Studies have found that mistakes caused by workers are significantly increased when they haven’t had more than 5 hours of sleep.
  • Introduce forward shift rotations at work so that it helps a worker to progress from morning to afternoon to night shifts in a clockwise direction.
  • Implement a policy that records and monitors employee overtime hours or shift-swapping. This could be used to limit employees from signing up to excessive working hours.

The above steps should help an organisation to improve productivity, reduce safety risks, reduce employee absenteeism and increase employee retention. By effectively managing fatigue at workplace would also help reduce the likelihood of any serious accidents caused due to a fatigue induced human error.

 

References
Medical news today (2017) – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/8877.php
Plant (2018) – https://www.plant.ca/features/fatigue-in-the-workplace-how-to-fight-this-workplace-hazard/
HSE (2017) – http://www.hse.gov.uk/humanfactors/topics/fatigue.htm
HSL – https://www.hsl.gov.uk/news/news_items/news-archive/are-you-managing-workplace-fatigue
Crossrail – https://learninglegacy.crossrail.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/HS52-03_Fatigue-management-staff-Presentation.pdf