Tiredness at work
Fatigue, tiredness and related hazards normally arise from excessive working hours or poorly managed work shifts. This hazard (which is seldom considered) has become more of an issue in recent years as many businesses are forced to reduce staff and overload existing employees with extra shifts due to hard economic times.
Overloading staff with work and long hours could lead to serious consequences including reduced productivity, general unhappiness, inducing and/or worsening of pre-existing health conditions and of course accidents.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations1999 along with the relevant Amendments between 2001 and 2009 and to a certain extend the European Directive of Working Time Regulations 1998 should be complied with when managing the risks of fatigue it the workplace.
Tiredness at work
Duty holders should be aware of relevant legislation including, maximum working hours, night work, rest breaks, young workers and holidays etc when preparing shifts and conducting risk assessments.
1. Weekly working limit for adult workers.
Essentially under health and safety law workers don’t have to work over 48 hours per week including overtime hours. But if desired there is a possibility to work up to 78 hours per week (The law recommends 90 hours of rest per week). In certain cases an opt-outs is necessary that is an additional written agreement between the employee and the company to be signed in which the employee would express her/his acceptance of such an arrangement. There are certain professions where exclusions apply such as young doctors, overseas and offshore staff. The opt-out can be for a limited period or could apply indefinitely. The employer has to keep a record of every employee who has signed an opt-out, but there is no need to record the exact hours.
2. Weekly working limit for young workers.
There are 8 hours per day or a maximum of 40 hours per week. There is no possibility for a young worker to sign an opt-out (However certain exclusions are contemplated by the regulations, if that happens an absolute maximum of 48 hours per week applies). A young worker is defined as a worker who is between 15 and 18 years old.
3. Night-time working.
A night-time worker is somebody who works at least three hours during night time for the majority of days of work. A maximum of 8 hours of work in 24 hours period apply for adult workers. This is an absolute limit, especially when significant hazards such as physical or mental strain are presented.
Young workers should not be working during the restricted period of 10pm- 6am, although some exclusion apply if all three of these conditions are in place:
- Their employer requires them for the successful continuation of the job, production design or in order to respond to high demand
- No adult worker is available
- Performing the job would not affect the young worker’s education or training
Such exclusions usually occur to young workers employed in hospitals, venues dedicated to cultural, artistic, sporting or advertising activities. In those cases the maximum of 8 hours for each 24 hours applies as with adult employees. In very few cases youngsters who are employed in agriculture, retail, postal or newspaper deliveries, catering, hotels pubs, bakeries, etc. could perform a night shift between midnight and 4 am.
What a company would have to do to comply with the legislation is a personal business. How management will address desires for more overtime working hours of employees is also difficult to predict. There are going to be, of course opposite situations when directors and managers would try an incentive to motivate people to work overtime if there is a big demand of products and services…
General tiredness and fatigue are not between the top risks which a safety inspector would look specifically for on a site visit. Traditionally it is a poorly- addressed hazard, or not often considered as a hazard by everybody.
The truth is that in the long term it could undermine any business. It usually leads to long sick absences, unhappy workforce, jobs half- done and even according to some recent studies stress and depression. Successful companies usually admit that their biggest asset is their people and they need to be properly looked after.
A good tool to determine if over-time or the introduction of new shifts is the best solution for higher demand is regular risk assessments. Sometimes the correct solution could be simply hiring more staff for the busiest periods instead of overloading the existing workforce.
It is practical that employees working long hours should have long break periods after. Keeping rotation and shifts predictable, flexible and in accordance with public transport and commuting is essential.
Good organization saves time. And…what is time in the business world?
Well,….you know the rest…
Tiredness at work was wriiten by one of out top health and safety consultants Leicester