6 Tips To Combat Worker Fatigue

combat worker fatigue

6 Tips To Combat Worker Fatigue

October is National Safe Work month. This initiative, launched by Safe Work Australia, aims to start conversations about creating a safer workplace through education and discussions.

So, let’s take a detailed look at worker fatigue. How does it affect the workplace? How can we spot the signs? And how can we combat worker fatigue?

Why fatigue is bad for your bottom line

Not only does worker fatigue cause more accidents in the workplace resulting in more workplace injuries, but it can also lead to damage to equipment, stock and loss of revenue.

Worker fatigue affects alertness resulting in a greater risk of accident and injury. It can also lead to lower productivity and higher absenteeism. According to research completed by a Monash University worker, worker fatigue costs the Australian economy over $5 billion in lost productivity and healthcare costs every year.

Worker fatigue on the rise

The pandemic and the current living costs pressures have left many people feeling worn out, stressed out and burnt out.

In a recent study from the ELMO Employee Sentiment Index, 46% of Australian employees reported they are feeling burnt out.

And these higher stress levels are leading to fatigue and sleep issues for Aussie workers. A study completed by the Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults reported that almost 30% of adults were making mistakes at work due to fatigue and sleep problems.

Spotting signs of fatigue

Worker fatigue can look different for different people but here’s some of the more common signs:

  • Obvious signs including excessive yawning or falling asleep at work
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Reduced capacity for interpersonal communication
  • Impaired decision-making and judgement
  • Poor hand-eye coordination / slow reflexes
  • Changes in behaviour such as constant lateness
  • Increased rates of absences
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sense of hopelessness
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Feeling anxious about work

How to combat worker fatigue

If workers seem fatigued, you could offer them a day off to recharge, and encourage them to discuss any issues in the workplace that could be contributing to their fatigue so this can be addressed to minimise the risk of future instances of fatigue.

The best way to deal with worker fatigue is to stop it from happening in the first place. Here are 6 ways to combat worker fatigue.

Have effective shift management

The workers at the highest risk of worker fatigue are shift workers, night workers, fly-in, fly-out, delivery drivers, long haul drivers. That’s why it’s so important to minimise worker fatigue for these at-risk groups through effective shift management. A general rule of thumb is to schedule at least 10 hours between shifts and at least one day off every seven days to allow for proper rest and relaxation.

Monitor shifts to ensure industry standards are met for time off and time between shift changes. If workers are allowed to swap shifts, make sure that swaps aren’t interrupting the balance of rostered days off.

Encourage breaks

In the stress-filled work environment we have all gotten used to, it’s not unusual for many workers to skip their lunch break, work through their breaks at their desk and put in extra hours.

But work breaks are important to reduce the risk of worker fatigue and boost productivity.  Encourage employees to take their break, step away from their workspace and enjoy some fresh air or a different environment for a few minutes to recharge.

Create the Culture

Creating a culture where workers are encouraged to take breaks, to bring up issues with workloads, shift changes and fatigue makes for a safer workplace.

Have an open dialogue about work health and safety in the workplace, make sure everyone knows the process for reporting issues like fatigue on the job. Ensure your Health and Safety Representative is known to the workers, and they have an easy avenue to make contact with them.

Work Processes / Procedures

Establish work processes and procedures that support workers, including having a backup plan in place if a worker becomes fatigued. And make sure that the workers are supported if they come forward to tell managers they are feeling fatigued.


Educate workers and management on worker fatigue and how to handle it and what the processes and procedures to follow are. Include signage around the workplace to remind people to check in with each other and keep an eye out for signs of fatigue.

Monitor workloads

In consultation with workers, establish a reasonable expectation for workloads and monitor employee’s workloads to stop employees taking on too much work. Have regular check ins with employees to see how they are managing their workload and if they are feeling overwhelmed or overworked.

What can workers do to fight fatigue?

Workers should ensure they are getting a decent night’s sleep before a shift, eating well before and during their shift and monitoring themselves for signs of inattentiveness and tiredness.

If a worker is concerned about their workload, their schedule, shift changes or work trips impacting on their level of fatigue they should bring this up with their manager.

Final Thoughts

Combating worker fatigue needs to be a focus for workers and managers alike. Knowing the signs and keeping an eye out for each other is the first step to combating worker fatigue. You can find more helpful resources from Safe Work Australia here.

Remember worker fatigue is bad for the employee, the company and the bottom line, but working together will help to manage the risk of work fatigue.

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