Workplace fatigue is still a significant issue for Australian businesses. According to Monash University’s Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity, poor alertness due to fatigue causes almost 10,000 serious workplace injuries and more than 25,000 serious road crash injuries each year.
While tired workers might not seem dangerous, fatigue-induced incidents cost the Australian economy around $5 billion a year in lost productivity and healthcare costs, and more than $31 billion a year in the loss of healthy life, according to Monash University.
The effects of fatigue
Workplace fatigue is mental or physical exhaustion that reduces the person’s ability to work both effectively and safely. This can be dangerous in some industries, particularly those that include heavy machinery. Even where there is no physical danger, fatigued employees are likely to be less productive.
According to a Navigo Research survey, 50 per cent of Australian organisations surveyed believe their workers are more fatigued now than in previous years. Almost 70 per cent of organisations also believe fatigue has a moderate to major impact on employee performance.
Technology is the key
Businesses need to make sure that they are actively tracking employee workloads and implementing automated systems that provide triggered alerts when an employee’s fatigue risk rises. Monitoring fatigue in this way can also bring additional benefits including: higher employee engagement; better business agility and responsiveness to changing labour conditions; improved performance and increased revenue due to reduced fatigue; reduced costs as a result of inefficient rostering or unplanned days off; and better visibility into scheduling requirements and staff availability.
Furthermore, by following these three steps, organisations can start to move towards effectively managing fatigue in the workplace:
- Proactive monitoring
Monitor worked hours and duties undertaken by employees. This can identify where fatigue might be an issue. Review existing schedules and patterns, work environments, and job responsibilities to ensure you are getting the best from your employees and are protecting them from fatigue risks.
- Use risk scoring to manage scheduling
Use an individual’s time and activities, break and shift patterns, and other factors to create a fatigue risk score. Rules can then be assigned to certain risk scores – for example restricting the type of tasks an employee can undertake until they have rested.
- Implement programs and policies to minimise fatigue impact
Implement measures to ensure that potentially fatigued employees are flagged before rosters are finalised. There are software systems that can track this data and automatically alert managers when a potentially fatigued employee is scheduled to work. Consider training staff to recognise the signs of fatigue in both themselves and their colleagues.
Fatigue management should be top of mind for employers in the transport industry, particularly in those roles that require employees to work long hours or operate heavy vehicles, and where being alert is critical to people’s safety.
A well-executed fatigue management system can help improve the bottom line by improving productivity and raising morale. It reduces revenue lost to sick leave, lowers the number of accidents/work mishaps, and decreases the risk of fines and litigation.
Leslie Tarnacki is the VP and GM of WFS: A Workforce Software Company (WFS Australia).