Identification of Fatigue
A fatigued person generally displays a set of symptoms that can be recognised but these may
often not be identified as fatigue. The common symptoms of fatigue listed below can help
managers and supervisors in identifying fatigue amongst employees:
• Undue tiredness;
• Higher level of irritability or impatience;
• Person speaks less than usual or is less clear in communication;
• Shorter attention span, easily distracted;
• Slower reaction speed;
• Compromised eye-hand coordination, increased clumsiness;
• Slowed thinking;
• Reduced short-term memory, forgetful;
• Inability to handle information especially under time pressure;
• Reduced ability for problem solving;
• Taking shortcuts to finish jobs, higher tendency of risk taking behaviour;
• Poor judgement of distance, speed, and/or time;
• Use/abuse of substances to cope (e.g. cigarettes, alcohol);
• Loss of appetite or problems with digestion; and
• Excessive sleepiness with Microsleep.
Strategies on Coping with Demands of Work
Include rest periods in the work schedule. When deciding on the length and frequency of breaks, consider:
• The type of work being performed, for example, a task requiring greater physical and/or mental effort would need a longer total break time per shift;
• The length of shifts worked; the longer the shift, the longer the total break time required per shift;
• A facility for resting;
- Provide and designate proper facility for employees to rest.
- The facility should be conducive to rest/sleep (e.g. clean, dim lighting, quiet, and temperature of the room).
• Include power nap2 of at least 20 minutes and at most 30 minutes to avoid falling into the deeper stages of sleep;
• Avoid safety critical work immediately after a nap to avoid adverse sleep inertia effects.
• Include activity breaks. For example, certain work activities can be monotonous and require a person to stand or sit in a fixed position for extended periods of time:
- Include short period of exercise, for example, stretching of the limbs and body, to provide a short term boost to alertness, mainly due to the change in posture of the affected persons; and
- Encourage employees to take scheduled breaks to relieve fatigue due to monotony of task.
Tips to Manage Fatigue
Individual factors play a part in effective fatigue mitigation or minimisation. The following are some good personal practices to avoid fatigue during work.
Tips to Optimise Sleep Opportunities
• Ensure seven hours to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep by:
- Choosing a quiet place to sleep; and
- Darkening the room and allowing more time than normal to fall asleep.
• Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day to avoid circadian disruptions.
• Keep the sleep environment cool (approximately 26oC).
• Move the alarm clock out of sight to prevent ‘clock watching’.
• Avoid using alcohol as a sleep aid. Even though alcohol will induce drowsiness, the quality of sleep will be poor.
• Avoid cigarettes or other sources of nicotine just before bedtime.
• Do something relaxing until there is sleepiness if sleep does not come within 30 minutes.
• Allow some time to recover from the “groggy” state after waking up. For example:
- Doing moderate exercises such as walking or jumping up and down; and
- Starting a conversation with someone.
Tips on Diet Management
Digestive problems are common in shift workers due to disruption of the body’s biological clock and poor diet. The following can help to improve the situation:
• Have regular light meals/snacks rather than a single heavy meal.
• Choose foods that are easy to digest such as pasta, rice, bread, salad, fruit, vegetables and milk products. This is especially useful if there is a pressing need to have some food before sleep to avoid significant hunger.
• Avoid fatty, spicy and/or heavy meals as these are more difficult to digest. They can make you feel drowsy when you need to be alert. They may also disturb sleep when you need to rest.
• Avoid sugary foods such as chocolate. They provide a short-term energy boost followed by a dip in energy levels.
• Choose fruits as snacks as their sugar is converted into energy relatively slowly, and they also provide vitamins, minerals and fibre.
• Drink plenty of fluid as dehydration can reduce both physical and mental performance. Avoid drinking too much fluid before sleeping as this may overload the bladder.
• Avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoons/evenings.