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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Fatigue?

Fatigue is often thought of as the state of feeling very tired, weary or sleepy resulting from various sources such as insufficient sleep, prolonged mental or physical work, or extended periods of stress or anxiety. Mental fatigue is a temporary inability to maintain optimal cognitive performance. The onset of mental fatigue during any cognitive activity is gradual, and depends upon an individual's cognitive ability, and also upon other factors, such as sleep deprivation and overall health. Mental fatigue has also been shown to decrease physical performance.[5] It can manifest as somnolence, lethargy, directed attention fatigue, or disengagement. This can be dangerous when performing tasks that require constant concentration, such as operating large vehicles. For instance, a person who is sufficiently somnolent may experience microsleep. Sources https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/fatigue.html Wikipedia

Why is Fatigue a Workplace Safety Issue?

Fatigue is a form of impairment, making fatigue a workplace hazard. However, fatigue levels are not easily measured or quantified; therefore, it is difficult to isolate the effect of fatigue on incident and injury rates. Workplace factors that may influence fatigue are shift rotation patterns, balanced workloads, timing of tasks and activities, availability of resources, and the workplace environment (e.g., lighting, ventilation, temperature, etc.). However, there are other factors besides lack of sleep which cause mental fatigue, such as mental workloads, demanding mental activities or stress, long periods of anxiety, or long periods of monotonous tasks, etc. Many studies focus on the amount of sleep required. Some research studies have shown that when workers have slept for less than 5 hours before work or when workers have been awake for more than 16 hours, their chance of making mistakes at work due to fatigue are significantly increased. Research has shown that the number of hours awake can be similar to blood alcohol levels. One study reports the following: •17 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.05 •21 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.08 (legal limit in Canada) •24-25 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.10 Fatigue is regarded as having an impact on work performance. Government of Alberta, Labour* reports that most incidents occur when people are more likely to want sleep - between midnight and 6 am, and between 1 to 3 pm. Government of Alberta, Labour also reports that fatigue affects people differently but it can increase a worker's hazard exposure by: •reducing mental and physical functioning, •impairing judgement and concentration, •lowering motivation, •slowing reaction time, and •increasing risk-taking behaviour. *Source: Fatigue, Extended Work Hours, and Workplace Safety, February 2017. Government of Alberta, Labour

Does Fatigue Impairment Compare to Driving Under the Influence?

Fatigue impacts a driver's reaction time, awareness of hazards around them and their attention. Drowsy drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a car crash and if they are awake over 20 hours, is the equivalent of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration level of 0.08%.[17]

What are Some Causes of Fatigue?

Causes of fatigue can be work related, personal or a combination of both. They can also be short term or accumulate over time. Work causes of fatigue might include: prolonged or intense mental or physical activity sleep loss and/or disruption of your internal body clock organizational change travel exceptionally hot or cold working environments work scheduling excessively long shifts not enough time to recover between shifts strenuous jobs long commuting times. Some workers are at a high risk of fatigue because their work typically involves some or all of these factors, for example: shift workers night workers fly-in, fly-out workers drive in, drive out workers seasonal workers on-call and call-back workers emergency service workers medical professionals and other health workers.

How Fatigue be Managed in the Workplace?

Companies can implement several kinds of fatigue management systems to help monitor fatigue. A fatigue risk management system (FRMS) is designed to create a flexible operating environment in which potential fatigue risks can be highlighted and managed. FRMS is an actively managed process where operators anticipate and address fatigue risks and amend their systems accordingly to ensure fatigue risk is managed. The key word here is that you are monitoring risks such as shift schedules and other work environment controls to prevent fatigue. A fatigue monitoring system that tracks real work hours on an individual basis can give companies a “heads up” as to when employees are beyond their ability to work safely, or it can correlate data on how productivity and quality control are aligning with human energy. But monitoring factors for fatigue and analyzing data is only part of the solution for a safe workplace. Real time interactive employee testing can detect an individual that may be fatigued and impaired thereby preventing accidents. demonstrates its real value when it interacts with the employee. If an employee is found to be impaired, supervisors can intervene and keep people out of harm’s way. People don’t have to be sent home; usually duties of high risk can be reassigned, or perhaps a short break would be sufficient. https://www.osha.gov/worker-fatigue