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Avoid the dangers of fatigue over the festive season

Release Date

21 December 2012

Employers and workers are urged to avoid the dangers of fatigue during the peak period as retailers, warehouses, road transport companies, tradespeople and manufacturers are working long hours to complete jobs before the holidays start.

Your ability to think clearly is vital when making safety-related decisions and this can be impaired when mental or physical exhaustion sets in. Everyone needs time to rest and recover or else they could make a mistake in the workplace that threatens their own health or that of a workmate.

Staying awake for 17 hours can impair performance as badly as if driving over the legal blood alcohol limit of 0.05%. At 21 hours - it's equivalent to double the legal drink driving limit. The level of fatigue varies for individuals and depends on workload, length of shift, previous hours and days worked, time of day or night worked and driving times to and from work.

Common effects associated with fatigue are the desire to sleep; lack of concentration; impaired recollection of timing and events; irritability; poor judgment and decision-making; reduced capacity for interpersonal communication; reduced hand-eye coordination; reduced visual perception; reduced vigilance; difficulty in undertaking complex tasks and slower reaction times.

Workers and managers needed to cooperate to better manage fatigue during the Christmas rush as it can involve factors both inside and outside of the workplace. Employers and business operators are responsible under workplace health and safety legislation for protecting their workers from the adverse effects of fatigue. Workers must ensure they are fit for duty and should raise any concerns about workloads and work pressures such as deadlines with their supervisor or health and safety representative.

For further information contact Larry Forsyth, Senior Manager WHS/HR consulting services, Australian Business Solutions Group.

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