Union rallies against workplace fatigue

by Cameron Edmond24 Sep 2013

This month, the battle continues for The Health Services Union (HSU), as it enters another round of negotiations with the State Ambulance Service over regional paramedics’ rosters which required them to be on call for 16 hours at a time, 7 days a week.

"One of the important things that has been gleaned through the Industrial Relations Commission hearing is that the rosters proposed are going to increase fatigue levels and are not consistent with the way forward.  The Ambulance Service has acknowledged that,” Gerard Hayes, state secretary of the HSU, told ABC.

This highlights the growing concern surrounding fatigue in all Australian workplaces, with Australians working more hours due to job security concerns, resulting in accidents, memory lapses, absenteeism, and a number of other side-effects.

According to Sleepless No More, there are currently more than 1.4 million shift-workers in Australia, with 56% of them falling asleep at work at least once a week. This figure becomes terrifying when one considers many of these workers may be driving or otherwise operating heavy machinery.

“Sleepiness” is affected by the obvious: poor nutrition, lack of exercise, age, medical problems and medication. Poor sleep patterns result in sleepiness, and continued poor sleep  can result in suddenly and involuntarily falling to sleep.

Fatigue, however, is more complicated. Psychological fatigue stems from doing the same task relentlessly, and eventually effects one’s neural networks, resulting in impairments that may cause a car to crash, or an error in a transaction amount.

Fatigue is further complicated by emotional stresses such as urgency, anxiety, exhausted adrenals, trauma, negative thoughts, and over-stimulating or challenging environments.

 

Key HR takeaways

In order to reduce fatigue in the workplace, Elizabeth Shannon, sleep and fatigue expert at Sleepless No More, outlined a few steps HR can quickly introduce into their workplace:

  • Place desks near light-entering windows. Research has shown that more light exposure during the day improves sleep at night.
     
  • Workers who have been awake for 14 hours straight should never operate equipment or dangerous machinery, nor should they drive a vehicle.
     
  • If an employee has just caught a late night flight, they should not be driving a vehicle afterwards. Ever.
     
  • Allow 20-minute naps at work, and encourage them for shift-workers or those who work after midnight.

 

Further reading

Is overtime worth it?

Kill Burnout with a green thumb

 

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