White Card Update: Managing Fatigue for Building Site Safety

Fatigue is a problem that affects not only construction workers but Australians from all walks of life and industries. However construction is one of the industries which require complete attention, alertness and concentration because of the vast number of hazards present and the great number of sources of injury as well as the severity of injuries that may be sustained by those involved in construction work. With so many dangerous activities combined on one confined site, every worker has their part to play towards safety and this cannot be done if any one of them is fatigued.

One of the main contributing factors to fatigue is irregular or extended working hours and shift work. Workers engaged in this type of shift work need to take the proper measures to ensure they manage this hazard so that it does not become a problem to their health and safety on site.

It is important to remember that:

  • Being awake for 17 hours is the equivalent of 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.

For this reason it is so important that workers get adequate rest and restorative sleep and do not work longer shifts than allowed by the law. You wouldn’t operate heavy machinery after drinking alcohol, so why try it while fatigued?

In addition to the immediate danger that fatigue and shift work places workers under, there are health effects that can result in the long run including:

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • gastrointestinal disorders
  • depression

Fatigue in the construction industry is often not given the attention it deserves because people do not recognise the damage that fatigue can cause. Some of the safety consequences of fatigue include decreased alertness and slowed reaction times. Now picture a worker trying to operate a crane without complete alertness and slowed reaction time, the consequences could be devastating. Other consequences include poor hand-eye coordination (also needed for construction work), poor communication, higher error rates, reduced vigilance and decision-making ability as well as poor judgement of performance, especially when assessing risks.

Another consequence that can be life threatening for construction workers is becoming easily distracted during complex tasks and difficulty responding to emergencies or loss of awareness of critical situations. Another ability that is restricted which construction workers ordinarily rely on is ability to remember the sequence of events, they need this ability to be able to remember safety procedures and the sequence which they are trained to follow.

Look out for the following signs of fatigue before it is too late:

Difficulty keeping your eyes open, blurred vision, head nodding, drowsy relaxed feeling, irritability, not feeling refreshed after sleep (waking tired), falling asleep at work, micro-sleeps – falling asleep for less than a second to a few seconds unaware that you have done so.

If you’re new to construction, here’s an outline of the important construction safety induction course

Posted by Construction Safety News Admin
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