How to manage fatigue on your job site
28 July 2016
How to manage fatigue on your job site


Construction work is risky.

Accidents can happen if you’re not on the ball.

And staying on the ball means you need to be physically and mentally alert. That’s hard if you’re feeling fatigued. The simple (common sense) fact is, when you’re tired, you’re more likely to make a mistake.

As an employer, you’re responsible for taking all practicable steps to ensure your employees stay safe at work. This means fatigue is a workplace risk that you need to manage.

I know! Another thing on your plate to worry about. But don’t worry. It’s easier than you might think.


Here are 10 simple things you can do to manage fatigue on your job site

  1. Make sure your staff are aware of the risks of fatigue on site and they know what symptoms to look out for (more about these later).
  2. Ensure a culture and process so that anyone can report fatigue-related issues. Make it OK.
  3. Workloads should be manageable. Avoid impractical deadlines or demands on individuals.
  4. Make sure your staff take their breaks.
  5. Don’t over-work your team. If longer working days are required, consider staggered start and finish times, and/or longer rest breaks and periods off work. Design rosters to allow for good recovery time between work periods.
  6. Schedule tasks throughout a work period to limit periods of excessive mental or physical demands (ie through job rotation). Critical tasks may include: tasks performed at a height; tasks with manual handling demands; tasks where a worker must enter a confined space; tasks which involve the use of mobile plant. Make sure staff aren’t doing these jobs when they’re tired.
  7. Ensure fit for purpose plant, machinery and equipment is used.
  8. Where possible, be aware of personal circumstances that affect your employees and provide support.
  9. Develop a fatigue policy for all workers, managers and supervisors. This policy should include information about: maximum shift length and average weekly hours; work-related travel; procedures for reporting fatigue risks; procedures for managing fatigued workers.
  10. Create a positive work environment where good relationships exist and workers are encouraged and supported.  


What are the signs of fatigue?

It’s easier to read tell-tale fatigue signs in someone else if you know how to identify them in yourself. Here are some of the typical symptoms you might feel if you’re tired or fatigued:

  • Feeling (constantly) tired
  • Having little energy or feeling ‘sluggish’,
  • Excessive yawning or falling asleep at work
  • Being less vigilant
  • Bad moods
  • Forgetfulness or inability to concentrate
  • Poor communication
  • Poor decision-making
  • Reduced hand-eye coordination and slower reaction times.
  • Other symptoms include: feeling drowsy, headaches, dizziness, blurred vision or impaired visual perception and a need for extended sleep during days off work.


Where to start

The first step is to talk about fatigue with your staff. Make them aware that being over tired at work is a real risk. Then make sure you action those ten steps to manage fatigue.

It’s easy to trivialise tiredness. After all, most people experience periods of fatigue at some point. The key is to be aware of the risks and recognise the signs.

We need to look after each other at work so that everyone goes home safe at the end of the day.


For further information see the Worksafe Fatigue in construction (Fact sheet)



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