This document provides practical guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking and other duty holders on how to manage fatigue to ensure it does not contribute to health and safety risks in the workplace.
The information in this guide can be applied generally to all types of work and workplaces covered by the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act. It is not designed to provide information on managing fatigue in specific industries and does not replace requirements related to fatigue under other laws, for example heavy vehicle driver fatigue laws or rail safety requirements. This information is available in the National Transport Commission’s Guidelines for Managing Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue and the National Rail Safety Regulator’s Guidance on Fatigue Risk Management Program. Working hours may also be subject to industrial awards or enterprise agreements.
1.1 What is fatigue?
Fatigue is more than feeling tired and drowsy. In a work context, fatigue is a state of mental and/or physical exhaustion which reduces a person’s ability to perform work safely and effectively. It can occur because of prolonged mental or physical activity, sleep loss and/or disruption of the internal body clock. Fatigue can be caused by factors which may be work related, non-work related or a combination of both and can accumulate over time. Chapter 2 provides further information about factors which may cause fatigue.
1.2 Why is fatigue a problem?
Fatigue can adversely affect safety at the workplace. Fatigue reduces alertness which may lead to errors and an increase in incidents and injuries, particularly when:
- operating fixed or mobile plant, including driving vehicles
- undertaking critical tasks that require a high level of concentration
- undertaking night or shift work when a person would ordinarily be sleeping.
The effects of fatigue can be short or long term. In the short term a person may show the signs or report the symptoms of fatigue outlined in section 1.3. The longer term health effects of fatigue can include:
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- gastrointestinal disorders
- lower fertility
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