Thomas Interiors – Toolbox Talk – Fatigue at Work

Fatigue at work

Thomas Interiors – Toolbox Talk – Fatigue at Work


What is Fatigue?

Fatigue is a state of physical and/or mental exhaustion which can reduce a person’s ability to perform work safely and effectively.

Fatigue can also reduce alertness.

This may lead to errors, and an increase in workplace incidents and injuries.

There are 3 types of fatigue:

  1. Physical
  2. Emotional
  3. Mental


Causes of Fatigue

There are various causes of fatigue, some of them inter-related. These include:

Work schedules: hours of work, night work and shift work (including breaks between shifts): Long work hours, irregular work hours, and schedules that require night work can cause fatigue.
These schedules limit the time for a person to physically and mentally recover from work. Working at night interrupts the natural sleeping rhythm, which can cause fatigue.

Sleep disruption: Everyone needs a particular amount of sleep to stay alert and perform well. People generally need between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep a night. The most beneficial sleep is deep, undisturbed and taken in a single continuous period. When the length and quality of sleep each day is disrupted, fatigue may result.

Environmental conditions: Climate extremes (such as working outside in winter), noise and handling vibrating tools place demands on workers and increase fatigue.

Physical and mental work demands: Construction work can be physically demanding which can increase fatigue. Mental demands can also increase fatigue, such as tasks that require periods of intense concentration.

Emotional well-being: Work events can be emotionally tiring and increase fatigue, such as regular criticism or the pressure to complete a task to a deadline. Non-work events can also cause distress and lead to fatigue – for example:

when a person faces the loss of a loved one or tries to resolve personal conflicts.


What do we expect from you?

  • Get the required amount of sleep
  • Tell your supervisor/manager if you have any sleep conditions
  • Consider future shifts when planning out of work activities
  • Declare a second job
  • Avoid excessive use of stimulants and sedatives
  • Limit your travel time, take journey breaks


Practical Steps to Minimise Fatigue

Sleep: People generally need between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep a night to maintain health and alertness. Adequate, good quality sleep is essential to maintain and restore full physical and mental functioning. It is the only way to recover from fatigue.

Promote better sleep: If it is hard to get good-quality sleep, try: keeping a regular sleep schedule by going to sleep and waking up at the same time daily; sleeping in a dark room; avoiding using electronics directly before sleep; eliminating noise; not eating large meals directly before sleep; exercising regularly; changing to a different bed. Look at sleep specific websites for more advice. If that does not work, consult a sleep expert.

Take breaks during and between shifts: Use this rest and recovery time appropriately to restore energy and alertness.

Nutrition: Eat a balanced diet, particularly foods that provide a steady release of energy throughout the day (e.g. wholegrains). Drink sufficient amounts of fluid.

Stimulants: Coffee and nicotine provide only short-term relief from the effects of fatigue. When the stimulants wear off, there is usually a ‘crash’ and poor-quality sleep may result. Sleeping tablets can reduce fatigue if properly used for limited periods (seek medical advice before use). Drugs and prescription medications should not be used as a substitute for getting adequate rest.

Work/life balance: Have a life outside of work and ‘switch off’ after work hours. Continue any personal hobbies i.e. sports, social group meet-ups etc.

When things are not right:

  • Inform your line manager / Supervisor
  • Assess the risks
    • Report any concerns
    • Make alternative arrangements to avoid the task to get it done safely
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