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Fatigue Management

Introduction

Fatigue is a work health and safety issue

Aim

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), Senators and Members, Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 (MOP(S) Act) employees and the Department of Finance (Finance) share the responsibility for preventing and managing fatigue in the workplace of MOP(S) Act employees.

Responsibility for administering the work health and safety for MOP(S) Act rests with the Ministerial and Parliamentary Services (M&PS) division of Finance.

This policy has been developed to:

Health and safety in the MOP(S) Act employment environment

Some factors that may contribute to unique patterns of fatigue amongst MOP(S) Act employees, for example, extended Parliamentary sitting hours, or responding to the emergence of a 24‑hour news cycle, may appear to be beyond the control of an individual Senator or Member or MOP(S) Act employee.

However, under the WHS Act, Senators and Members, MOP(S) Act employees and Finance all have duties to consult, co-operate and co–ordinate activities with all other persons who have a duty in relation to the same WHS matter. By working together to encourage a culture of health and safety awareness, Senators and Members, MOP(S) Act employees and Finance can assist to eliminate or minimise the risks associated with fatigue in Senators and Members’ offices.

Senators and Members and MOP(S) Act employees are expected to comply with this policy within the current limits of the Commonwealth resources available to them.

Consultation

Finance will consult on the content of this draft policy with:

Section A – Sharing Responsibility for Fatigue Management

Finance

Finance will:

Senators and Members

Under the WHS Act, Senators and Members must:

To demonstrate that they have met these obligations, Senators and Members should:

MOP(S) Act employees

Every MOP(S) Act employee has a duty under the WHS Act as a worker to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, and must not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons.

MOP(S) Act employees must:

Section B – What is Fatigue?

The information in this section is provided to assist Senators and Members with their duty under the WHS Act to acquire, and keep up to date, knowledge of work health and safety matters that affect their workplace, including fatigue. It is also provided to assist MOP(S) Act employees to recognise and monitor their own levels of fatigue and to take steps to manage them.

Definition

Fatigue is physical and/or mental exhaustion that can be triggered by stress, medication, overwork, or mental or physical illness.

Symptoms of fatigue

Symptoms of fatigue vary but may include blurred vision, difficulty keeping eyes open, head nodding, drowsy feeling, irritability, falling asleep at work, micro sleeps, and feeling tired after sleep.

Effects of fatigue

Immediate effects

The health and safety consequences of fatigue include:

Longer-term effects

Longer-term health effects of fatigue include increased risks of:

Causes of Fatigue

Fatigue may be caused by factors including:

The body’s states of sleep and awakeness are regulated by the circadian clock, also known as the body clock. The body clock monitors the amount of light that the body is exposed to. As it gets darker towards the end of the day the brain begins to release a hormone called melatonin which prompts the body to fall asleep. Melatonin levels in the body remain high overnight and begin to decrease as morning approaches. This cycle is known as the circadian rhythm. A disruption to the circadian rhythm, such as working during the night, may put a person at risk of developing fatigue, even when they appear to be having adequate amounts of quality sleep.

Section C – Managing Fatigue in the Workplace

Risk Management

Senators and Members should adopt an ongoing fatigue risk management approach within their office, in consultation with their workers, to:

Identify hazards

This involves identifying aspects of the work or workplace that could contribute to employees developing fatigue.

Some examples of fatigue hazards are provided in the table below:

Fatigue hazard Example
Mentally demanding work Concentrating on complex documents for extended periods
Physically demanding work Carrying luggage long distances while travelling
Emotionally demanding work Dealing with constituents with challenging behaviours, or sensitive problems
Work schedule
  • Insufficient recovery time between work hours
  • Time of day/night that the work is undertaken
How the work is organised
  • Working in groups if the employee’s preferred style is to work alone
  • Working alone where there are multiple, conflicting priorities (eg at an information stall)
Culture of the work environment
  • Working long hours, even when it’s not required
  • Staying at work ‘in case something unfolds’
  • Many staff being on duty after hours, instead of rostering, or being on call
  • Routine use of substances that mask fatigue, such as caffeine, or ‘energy’ drinks
Individual lifestyle factors
  • Health conditions
  • Home environment
  • Second jobs
  • Extended travel between home and workplace
Travel

Travel that starts early

Travel late at night

Driving when already fatigued

Driving long distances

Travel with unreasonable timeframes

Assess risks

Once a fatigue hazard is identified, the risk of potential harm needs to be assessed in terms of its likelihood, and its impact on employees and the office environment. There are potentially significant consequences of fatigue in terms of individual psychological and physical health and increased potential for accidents and injuries to occur. Fatigue can make other risks to health and safety worse.

Eliminate risks of fatigue

The only long term effective strategy to eliminate fatigue is sleep.

Adults generally require 7-8 hours of sleep daily, however, this varies for each person. Sleep deprivation has been likened to the effects of alcohol. Being awake for 17 hours is the equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05; being awake for 20 hours is the equivalent of having a blood alcohol level of 0.1.

Minimise risks of fatigue

Senators and Members, and MOP(S) Act employees who manage others

There are several control measures that Senators and Members and managers can implement to minimise the risk of employees developing fatigue:

Mental, physical, and emotional demands of work
Work scheduling and planning
How work is organised

Senators and Members and all MOP(S) Act employees

Work scheduling and planning
Individual and lifestyle factors

Travel

Travel presents particular fatigue risks within MOP(S) Act employment, due to the long distances travelled, the time demands, the intensity of the work undertaken, and the constraints of the employment framework. During peak work periods, it is worth evaluating whether physical travel is necessary, or whether another means of communication, such as telepresence or teleconferencing, would be safer or more efficient.

To the extent possible, and within the current limits of the Commonwealth resources available:

Driver Fatigue

Driving whilst fatigued increases the risk of having a micro sleep and losing control of the vehicle. A micro sleep is a brief and temporary loss of consciousness lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a number of minutes. During a microsleep of just four seconds, a vehicle travelling at 100km/h will travel 111 metres.

Signs of Driver Fatigue

Fatigued drivers may experience some of the following symptoms:

Managing Driver Fatigue

A driver should not attempt to fight fatigue, however, precautions should be taken to avoid distractions and boredom whilst driving, such as:

If an employee drives early in the morning, or late at night, they should take short ‘power naps’, as needed, to refresh. In addition, drivers should take regular breaks on long journeys. The NRMA recommends a 15 minute break every two hours.

A five minute petrol stop is not sufficient.

What to do

If you, your employee, or someone in your workplace is suffering from fatigue, the best immediate course of action is to rest, and if possible, sleep.

If you find that fatigue is an ongoing issue, a discussion with your Senator, Member or office manager may be appropriate to assist in developing alternative working arrangements within the office to prevent further instances of fatigue. The Employee Assistance Program is also available to assist employees with any work or non-work related problems.

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© Commonwealth of Australia 2010 | ABN 61970 632 495
Last Modified: 2 December, 2016