The Dangers Of Fatigue In The Workplace

Fatigue increases the risk of injuries or other accidents. As an employer, ensure your workers are not experiencing signs or effects of fatigue on the job. You can help make your workers and your business safer by including information on fatigue and sleep in your safety guidelines and orientations. You can also develop a fatigue management plan.

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is a state of feeling very tired, exhausted, weary, or sleepy. Fatigue results from a lack of sleep and can be heightened from prolonged mental activity or long periods of stress or anxiety. Boring or repetitive tasks can also intensify feelings of fatigue.

Fatigue can be acute or chronic.

Acute fatigue results from a sudden onset of short-term sleep loss, such as getting less sleep than normal before a work shift. Adequate sleep is necessary to reverse the effects of acute fatigue. Chronic fatigue is a long-term state that results from an extended loss of necessary sleep. A sleep debt can build over weeks or months from a reduction or disruption of a normal sleep routine.

h3p>Signs and symptoms of fatigue

Train supervisors and workers to recognize the immediate signs and symptoms of fatigue, which include the following:

• Tiredness or sleepiness

• Memory lapses

• Difficulty concentrating

• Slower reaction times

Effects of fatigue

Studies indicate that the risk of making mistakes at work increases significantly if workers sleep for less than the average (7.5–8.5 hours) or are awake for more than 17 consecutive hours.

The effects of fatigue can reduce a worker’s:

• Ability to make decisions

• Ability to do complex planning

• Communication skills

• Productivity and performance

• Attention

• Ability to handle stress

• Reaction time

• Ability to recall details

• Ability to respond to changes in surroundings or information provided

Fatigue can also result in:

• Inability to stay awake

• Increased forgetfulness

• Increased errors in judgment

Over the long term, fatigue can result in health effects, such as loss of appetite and digestive problems, and other chronic health conditions, including depression. These effects can result in:

• Increased sick time, absenteeism, and rate of turnover

• Increased medical costs

One study has shown that fatigue can have similar effects to drinking alcohol:

• 17 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.05 (the legal limit in

British Columbia)

• 21 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.08

• 24–25 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.10

Causes of fatigue

Fatigue is caused primarily by long hours of being awake. Other causes include extended shifts, shift rotations (days and nights), and irregular or disrupted sleep. Workplace factors, such as the following, can also increase feelings of fatigue:

• High temperatures

• High noise levels

• Dim lighting or poor visibility

• Work tasks that are long, repetitive, paced, difficult, boring, or monotonous

Alcohol and caffeine

A lack of quality sleep can contribute to fatigue.

Substances such as caffeine and alcohol can affect sleep quality and quantity, particularly if taken in the hours before bedtime. Alcohol may shorten the time to fall asleep, but it will disrupt sleep patterns.


Prescription medications and over-the-counter medications can also affect sleep and may cause a sense of sleepiness and loss of alertness during work.

Sleep disorders

Sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, and other disorders affect alertness. If workers are experiencing any symptoms related to sleep disorders they should seek a doctor’s advice.

How to help your workers stay safe

Create shift schedules that give workers enough time

If the job requires long hours or overtime, consider that your workers will need enough time for other daily activities, such as commuting, preparing and eating meals, socializing, and relaxing.

Provide a work environment that has good lighting, comfortable temperatures, and reasonable noise levels.

Ensure that jobs provide some variety, with work tasks that change throughout the shift. Be flexible when assigning tasks — assign workers who may be fatigued to tasks that aren’t safety sensitive.

If your workplace has long shifts or frequent overtime, consider providing amenities, such as the following:

• Prepared meals

• On-site accommodations

• Facilities where workers can nap either during the shift or before driving home

Tips for getting a better sleep

People need at least 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep a day.

Studies have found that most night-shift workers get less sleep per week than those who work day shifts.

The quality of sleep during the day is not the same as during the night.

Here are some guidelines you can pass on to your workers for improving quality of sleep:

• Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

• Turn out the light immediately when going to bed.

• Don’t read or watch television in bed.

• Make your room as dark and quiet as possible.

Some people sleep better in a cool room.

• Establish regular eating times.

• Avoid caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, especially before bedtime.

• Exercise regularly.

Other resources

Human Factors Bulletin 2009-03 (WorkSafeBC)

HSE Human Factors Briefing Note No. 10: Fatigue

(Health and Safety Executive)

Shift Work and Fatigue online program

(Work Safe Alberta)

Sonic Enclosures’ Matei Ghelesel Honoured by BIV

Matei Ghelesel, president and owner of Sonic Enclosures of Delta, has been chosen as one of Business in Vancouver (BIV) magazine’s 2014 Forty Under 40 honourees.

According to BIV, “Only having joined the company in 2012, Ghelesel led a successful management buyout last year, becoming Sonic’s president, COO and majority shareholder.”

The company website describes Sonic Enclosures as having “built a reputation for integrity, uncompromising quality, and engineering excellence in the design and manufacturing of modular enclosure solutions and metal buildings worldwide. Our products are suitable for a wide range of sectors – including the oil and gas, mining, marine, offshore, and forestry industries.

“Having just completed delivering 23 Electrical Rooms made up of 55 standard modular sections for the Kitimat Modernization Project, Sonic Enclosures is well positioned to play a key role in the upcoming LNG projects in the Pacific Northwest.”

For more on Sonic Enclosures click here.

Rimex Wins Innovations Contest

Rimex Supply is the winner of WorkSafeBC’s 2014 Innovations Contest. According to WorkSafeBC, Rimex used a participatory approach, consulting with their workers, to make improvements to their processing of half and full lock rings.

“The old process had workers lifting or lowering the rings, which weigh up to 50 kg (110 lb.), eleven times while taking them through their stations. After building new top plates and tables and connecting the stations using roller conveyors, Rimex reduced the lifting or lowering of rings to two times. Workers developed, tested, and improved the solutions throughout the process.

“One of the improvements involved reducing noise levels during stamping, by using a table with rubber between two steel plates. Plans for continued improvement include adding a rotating table to turn the full lock rings and a hoist attachment to eliminate manual lifting.”

“We were very honored to even be considered for this award. We try to involve our employees in all decisions which affect them and their working conditions. This was truly an example of the kind of success you can achieve with a participatory approach,” says James Read, Rimex’s Agassiz Plant Manager.

“Having endeavored to start our journey down the lean Manufacturing road, we have been correctly and gently coerced into the participatory method and the rewards are obvious not only for the recognition, but for the positive moral that derives from true teamwork, calculated empowerment and education.”

RIMEX Supply

RIMEX is the leading custom manufacturer of all off road wheel and rim assemblies. RIMEX’s primary markets include mining, forestry, agriculture and industrial equipment, specializing in haul trucks and loaders. Established in 1976, RIMEX has over 35-years-experience custom manufacturing wheels and rims for some of the world’s largest and most demanding vehicles.

In addition to wheels and rims designed to meet various off-highway applications, RIMEX offers a full range of complementary products to match their wheel counterparts. A tire pressure monitoring system, portable tire press, and air pressure relief valves are just a sample of the many RIMEX products that will save you time and money and improve worksite safety.

Ergonomics eNews

What is the purpose of consultation?

From WSBC. Under the Ergonomics (MSI) Requirements, workers must be consulted in the musculoskeletal injury (MSI) prevention process. The purpose of consultation is to obtain feedback from the workforce. The model of consultation used will depend on the size and complexity of the employer.

Some larger employers have found it most effective to develop a facility-wide framework for MSI-risk management, while encouraging effective local decision making to resolve MSI issues as they arise.

Experience shows that workers who perform the job are the best source of information for identifying, assessing, and effectively controlling the risk of MSI. When workers are involved in the MSI-prevention process, they can often provide insight into the risks associated with their work — and they often have good ideas about effective risk controls.

Consultation also provides a forum for involving the workforce in decision making that affects their work activities. This encourages workers to engage with the process, making the MSI-reduction strategy more likely to succeed. The WorkSafeBC publication Preventing Musculoskeletal Injury (MSI): A Guide for Employers and Joint Committees (PDF 1.6 MB) is available to assist you.