In October that same year, the so-called ‘Mona Vale inferno’ in Sydney’s northern beaches was a devastating trucking accident caused by fatigue. The human cost was tragic: two dead, five injured. Add to that the environmental damage caused from leaking fuel and massive business costs: Cootes Transport Group was hit with more than $50,000 in fi nes and penalties, incurred $9m in compliance costs, lost major contracts and restructured from being one of Australia’s largest transportation groups into a small, specialist transport company.
While it’s true that fatigue-related incidents in transportation and frontline industries such as mining, healthcare and aviation land in the headlines, the first example above – as extreme and isolated as it might appear – demonstrates that white-collar professions could also benefit from a focus on fatigue management and more effective time & attendance management.
Fatigue management brings wider benefits as part of an overall workforce management strategy. Aberdeen Group’s 2014 report, Bottom Line Reasons for a Total Workforce Management Strategy
- 4% increases in revenue per FTE for those organisations with a workforce management solution
- 9% boost in workforce utilisation capacity
- 6% improvement in customer satisfaction scores
James Kissell, director of marketing at WorkForce Software, says that in any industry, regulated or not, fatigue can take a toll on business performance. There are strong parallels (and research) showing how working as a fatigued employee is akin to working under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In fact, being awake for 17 hours straight has been equated to having a blood alcohol content of .05 – the legal limit for most drivers in Australia.
Why it matters
The most significant impact is on productivity, worker safety and even employee satisfaction. WorkForce Software’s white paper, titled Examining the hidden costs of fatigue: Risks & remedies for Australian businesses
, provided these insights:
- There is increased likelihood of errors amongst fatigued workers. When tired workers are faced with tasks that require alertness, mental acuity or decision-making (in short, most jobs), a measurable decrease in accuracy and quality will result. Fatigued persons are slower at interpreting visual information than alert peers – a limitation that can have significant impacts on job performance.
- Fatigue can also lead to an increase in tolerating or undertaking risky behaviour. Fatigued individuals frequently have a very different opinion of what’s ‘good enough’ compared to fresh, non-fatigued colleagues. Fatigued workers are prone to cutting corners, which can have a negative impact on everything from worker safety to the quality of your brand and its products and services.
In November 2013 a young intern working in the banking/financial services industry suffered an epileptic seizure – believed to be caused by overwork – and consequently died.