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Workplace Fatigue as a Safety Risk

Published September 22, 2017 (last updated December 7, 2020) -

With recent news of the first prosecution under the new Health and Safety at work Act 2015, it is more important than ever that employers are aware of all potential safety risks in their business. Staff fatigue is often overlooked as a safety concern and WorkSafe has released new guidelines on the topic ahead of daylight savings changes this weekend. Key takeaways from the WorkSafe guidelines are listed below and the full report can be accessed here.

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is a state of exhaustion that can reduce an employee’s ability to do their usual job safely and effectively. If an employee’s ability to be alert at work is affected, this could lead to an increase of workplace accidents and injuries.  Regardless of the the cause of fatigue, employers have a responsibility to monitor and manage the issue to ensure their workplace remains safe.

Causes of fatigue

Employers should be aware of the below causes of fatigue and take all reasonable steps to minimise the risks to staff:

  • work schedules – exhausting hours of work, night work and shift work
  • sleep disruption – this could occur due to an evening work function, or interruptions to employees after hours
  • environmental concerns – being aware of employees working under exhausting conditions, such as outdoors in the sun
  • physical and mental work demands – periods of intense concentration
  • emotional well being – too much pressure or criticism, or insensitivity to an employee’s personal issue

Workplace fatigue policy

It is essential that employers extend their workplace safety policy to include staff fatigue. This could include policies such as:

  • setting limits on maximum shift lengths, and average weekly hours for employees
  • constructing policies regarding work related travel, for example adding an extra night as a stopover for long international flights
  • ensuring there is a procedure for reporting potential fatigue risks, and that workers feel comfortable reporting issues to management
  • treating incidents of fatigue in the same way as any other workplace safety risk, and reporting them accordingly

For more information on managing staff fatigue or creating an effective workplace safety policy, employers should contact Employsure on 0800 568 012.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,500 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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