Fatigue related risk is a well-known safety hazard with increased exposure for shiftwork operations and workplaces.
Once you have developed rosters (your plan) and hours of work (actuals including overtime) that obtain and maintain an acceptable level of risk, the next step is to increase the knowledge and understanding of your workforce about fatigue.
Many workers do not have strategies to help cope with changing sleep and wake times, so educating your workforce about living better with shiftwork can benefit your business, your employees, and their health/safety/wellbeing.
In addition to the benefits of the training content, you will be raising employee and supervisor awareness regarding shared responsibilities for managing and reducing fatigue related risks associated with hours of work.
Health education, fatigue management and lifestyle training for workers is an effective control measure targeted at reducing risk and promoting healthy lifestyles and work environments. This approach is effective for reducing risk because it provides information directly to the individual responsible for managing their own fatigue.
Educating your workforce about fatigue is also a continuous process. Organisations must educate, emphasise and reinforce the importance of this information not only to new employees through the induction process but also periodically to the entire workforce as a reminder of the importance to the business and all employees.
Key topics to include in your discussions and information for workers are about:
- How our biological clocks work,
- The accumulation of sleep debt,
- Fatigue management,
- Sleep disorders,
- Personal health habits,
- Individual strategies for different work patterns, and
- Lifestyle issues such as: caffeine, nicotine, sleeping pills, alcohol, exercise, diet, lighting and communication.
For many shift workers, the benefits of shiftwork outweigh the trade-offs. We often find individuals and families that cope best with shiftwork have developed strategies to better manage their time off and make lifestyle choices to improve their quality of life.
Creating a true learning experience for workers and providing this information in different formats like e-learning, classroom sessions and take-home booklets can help with worker acceptance, learning and understanding.