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Safety Spotlight

15th Apr 2021

Fatigue in the Workplace

Are you fit to work today?

The north is a unique place to live and work. Many of the day-to-day realities of our workplace can leave us tired and worn out. This could be the long hours of shift work, the industry or types of jobs that we do, the ever-changing daylight hours, and perhaps even different types of home stress. All of these factors can contribute to what is known as “fatigue,” which is a type of workplace impairment.

When is tired too tired?

The occasional bout of tiredness is an inevitable part of life. We have busy lives, it is normal to occasionally feel a little worn out or tired. Workers should take a restful lunch break, have a glass of water or cup of coffee, or block off a few quiet moments to relax. But sometimes being too tired can become a workplace safety issue.

Fatigue is the result of a prolonged physical, mental, or emotional strain, a noisy work environment, prolonged physical strain (which can include excessive exposure to vibrations or loud noises), or it could be the result of long shifts doing tasks that are repetitious or tasks that require close attention to detail. 

Signs of fatigue can include: 

  • Poor decision making
  • Slow reaction times
  • Forgetfulness
  • Not being able to stay awake
  • Poor communication skills
  • Irritability 

Fatigue is often the result of several different factors that combine to wear a person out. It is important to understand that prolonged periods of fatigue can start to have an impact on a worker’s mental AND physical health, and makes them far more likely to experience a workplace incident or injury.

5 steps for managing fatigue in the workplace

Fatigue is considered a form of impairment. It is important that employers have policy to manage impairment in the workplace. However, supervisors and workers also have an important role to play in managing fatigue in the workplace:

  1. The worker must identify if they are not fit to work. This could mean doing a self-check-in, asking “am I fit to work?”  
  2. All coworkers, workers, and supervisors, should keep an eye on one another for signs of fatigue. 
  3. If a worker is too fatigued to do their job safely, they should have a conversation with their supervisor. Discuss whether it is safe to do another task, or if the worker should go home. 
  4. When the worker is feeling more rested, the supervisor should check in with them again.
  5. Schedule a follow-up discussion to ensure that the worker’s energy levels are improved, and that they don’t have any outstanding concerns.

At the end of the day, managing fatigue in the workplace is about open communication between employers, supervisors, and workers. How can we make sure we are working safely every day? Life happens, and there are times where we all get run down, but it is always a priority to make sure that workers go home safe at the end of every workday.


The WSCC has created resources to help you educate your workers on the dangers of fatigue in the workplace. Incorporate these resources into your workplace’s next safety talk:

For more information, or to receive WSCC’s focused inspection sheet for fatigue, contact the WSCC today.