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Fatigue is a common factor in workplace accidents and near misses, and although more and more organizations are recognizing the importance of monitoring it, fatigue may often be thought of as synonymous with sleepiness or drowsiness and that all fatigue results from insufficient restorative sleep. 

One Measure of Fatigue is the Fatigue Assessment Scale.

“The FAS is a 10-item scale evaluating symptoms of chronic fatigue. In contrast to other similar measures (e.g., the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory Chap. 57), the FAS treats fatigue as a unidimensional construct and does not separate its measurement into different factors. However, in order to ensure that the scale would evaluate all aspects of fatigue, developers chose items to represent both physical and mental symptoms.” Knowing that fatigue can occur on a scale can be helpful in establishing policies and implementing technologies that monitor worker fatigue to determine when fitness to work is impacted."

Feeling sleepy is certainly a symptom of fatigue, and extended wakefulness is certainly a cause. But fatigue can also result from other causes not related to a lack of sleep, like the nature of the work as well as ergonomic and environmental factors like temperature and noise.

For example, assembly line workers may work typical eight-hour days—shifts not long enough to necessarily contribute to fatigue on their own—but the work area is hot, and a large industrial fan runs constantly throughout the day, filling the environment with a loud droning whir. The workers repeat their tasks on the assembly line hundreds of times in a shift, and this repetition, the drone of the fan, and the ambient heat can lull workers into a tired, non-alert state. Plus, they may still be in this state for their commute home. Similarly, seasonal changes and cold weather often mean that outdoor operations, like construction and resource extraction sites, have to adapt both equipment and employees to the cold. Extended exposure to the cold can have a significant impact on alertness levels. Plus, working in the cold requires proper protection, like large coats, hats, gloves, and boots.

Wearing additional and atypical gear can make everyday tasks more challenging, slow physical reaction time, restrict peripheral vision, and contribute to physical fatigue due in part to the gear's added weight. OSHA defines fitness-for-work as being physically, emotionally, and mentally able to perform essential job functions, and fatigue diminishes fit for work exponentially as it advances, increasing risk to safety and productivity. 

Because fatigue is a common issue and can manifest in a number of ways and on a scale, it is important that organizations find ways to mitigate the work environment's impact on workers' fatigue levels. This not only influences worker safety directly, but it also has a positive impact on productivity and performance since a fatigued worker is not performing optimally.

How do you establish a fatigue assessment program that takes into account varying levels of fatigue and how they might impact work performance and safety? Get the guide below!

fatigue management steps

More Resources:
6 Reasons Why Your Company Needs to Manage Work Fatigue and Impairment (Part 1)
6 Reasons Why Your Company Needs to Manage Work Fatigue and Impairment (Part 2)
Managing Safety through Worker Fatigue Data
10 Steps in a Fatigue Management Plan
3 Ways Sleep Sleep Apnea at Work is Costing Your Business (And How To Fix It)
4 Steps to Fatigue Risk Management - a Fatigue Risk Management Template
6 Fatigue Countermeasures
Fatigue in the Workplace: Myths vs. Realities
Work Fatigue Symptoms
Predictive Safety Featured On the WorkSAFE Podcast: Tech Designed to Stop Fatigue Impairment Risk in Its Tracks
The Science of Fatigue at Work
Fatigue Risk Management Without Regulatory Guidance
Real-Time Fatigue Monitoring & Management Software
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