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Managing fatigue

Managers and supervisors have a key role in identifying and managing risks due to excessive or ongoing workplace fatigue.  

They are some of an organisation’s important eyes and ears, and they need to see, and respond to, what’s happening on the tools. But they are also an organisation’s voice: what a manager says and does tells people  whether the organisation wants to manage any significant health, safety or quality risk that might arise from fatigue. The way managers and supervisors deal with and respond to staff will influence whether they find out about fatigue before, or after, an incident or serious mistake.

Key actions for managers and supervisors:

  • Be aware of workplace risks due to fatigue, what causes fatigue, and what its effects are on people. It can be a driving, as well as a workplace, issue and in addition to health and safety, it can affect quality, communication and productivity.
  • Promote a culture where workplace fatigue can be openly discussed, where staff understand the expectations on them, and where staff can report any workplace fatigue concerns.
  • Look and listen out for what might cause fatigue, and for people who show signs of fatigue. Listen to any fatigue concerns, try to understand the real causes, and then assess what can be done to address those causes. If a hitherto good worker is saying they are having issues with workplace fatigue, consider how likely it is that what needs to be dealt with is the work itself.
  • If a worker is, or could become, so fatigued that their health and safety could be affected, you must take steps to resolve the situation, to protect their own and others health and safety. Do not ignore fatigue situations.
  • Make sure individuals who you manage or supervise understand their responsibility to get enough sleep and arrive for work alert and well rested, while also feeling able to flag up if they have problems that may temporarily be beyond their control.
  • Support individuals in finding information, advice and strategies that can help them to get the sleep, rest, exercise and nutrition they need. When a worker’s sleep, rest and nutrition are right, pretty much everyone wins.

Operatives should, of course, always take an honest look at whether any fatigue they are undergoing is due to work, or their activities or lifestyle away from work.  But that said, a key message - if your work activity or schedule is causing you to be significantly fatigued - is that it’s far better to discuss it with your manager or supervisor, than to push on and risk a fatigue-related incident, mistake or omission.


Information from HSE on this important topic can be found at: