Is construction fatigue overlooked in Australia?

by 05 Feb 2010

Sydney University's, Dr Margaret Chan, has warned that fatigue may be being overlooked as a cause of accidents on construction sites.

Chan said her research showed that while failure to use equipment properly or failure to follow safety procedures is often identified as the cause of an accident on a construction site, fatigue could be the underlying trigger.

“If you eliminate fatigue, you also eliminate other so-called ‘causes’ of accidents," she said.

Her findings were based on interviews with workers, managers and safety supervisors from four Chinese oil and gas joint venture projects. Interviewees overall highlighted fatigue as the top perceived safety risk.

While Australia has higher OH&S standards than China, Chan said that Australian construction companies still needed to be more aware of rest and recovery times for workers.

"Managers should ensure workers take regular breaks from work, and schedule shift rosters to allow the body to adapt to the circadian rhythm. They should also provide facilities allowing workers to recover from the fatigue and stress that comes with working in a high-risk environment."

She said safety officers should factor fatigue into safety audits and consider it when investigating accidents.