Fatigue could put you in danger
Research has shown that fatigue affects people in ways very similar to alcohol intoxication — they perform just as poorly when tired as they do when they are drunk.
Simply put, fatigue means exhaustion, tiredness or sluggishness. It results mostly from inadequate quantity or quality of sleep. Both are important for maintaining normal alertness and performance.
Fatigue is a workplace safety concern because it reduces attention and reaction time, which can cause someone to make errors in judgment, leading to mistakes that can result in injuries and property damage.
Sleep requirements can vary between individuals, but on average, we need at least 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep every day.
Inadequate sleep over a series of nights causes a sleep debt, which results in increased fatigue that can sometimes be worse than a single night of inadequate sleep.
There are many reasons for not obtaining the quality or quantity of sleep required to be rested adequately. Some of these reasons are work-related and some are not.
Examples of work-related fatigue factors are:
• Hours of work, especially night work, early morning starts and high total number of hours.
• Task demands or time pressures that do not allow for adequate breaks
• Working conditions that can
compound fatigue, such as heat stress and boring or repetitive tasks.
Examples of non-work-related fatigue factors include:
• Undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders.
• Individual family or social factors that take priority over sleep.
A condition such as diabetes, allergies, hypertension, or a short-term illness such as a cold can cause someone to be fatigued more easily. Medication also could affect sleep or cause drowsiness.
Fatigue-related symptoms can be divided into three categories:
Physical — Yawning, heavy eyelids, rubbing the eyes, head drooping, microsleeps (brief periods of unconsciousness).
Mental — Difficulty concentrating and remembering, failing to communicate important information, failing to anticipate events or actions, accidentally doing the wrong thing or failing to do the right thing.
Emotional — Quieter or more withdrawn than normal, lacking in energy or motivation to do a task well, irritability.
The best way to prevent fatigue is to get enough quality sleep, which means making time for it during your time off and catching up on your sleep debt.
In addition, here are some temporary measures to help manage fatigue:
• Take a nap. Sleeping for 20 minutes might refresh you enough so you can keep working safely. If you’re driving, make sure you get off the road to a well-lit area and have good ventilation in your vehicle.
• Take a break. Stop what you’re doing, walk around or exercise and get some fresh air.
• Don’t be too comfortable, otherwise your alertness could decrease. Sit straight if you’re in a chair, and if possible, keep your environment cool, well ventilated, a bit noisy and brightly lit.
• Stay hydrated, eat light meals and avoid sleep-inducing foods and alcohol. Don’t trust caffeine for alertness — it takes about half an hour to have any effect, lasts only a short time and leaves you even more tired when it wears off.
• Break the monotony. If you’re driving, change the radio station often, sing along, or talk to yourself — but don’t use your cellphone.