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The impact of tiredness and fatigue on your business

12 June 2019 | 3 min read

From time to time we all feel tired - and usually the cause is related to a lack of rest or a good night’s sleep. Rarely do we do anything about this with one in 10 people reporting prolonged fatigue and even fewer people at 1.5% every year consulting with their GP1.

Interestingly there is no universally agreed medical definition for tiredness or fatigue - probably because it’s based on an individuals’ perception and is therefore subjective. But more than 3.5 million people are employed as shift workers in the UK, working in a variety of industries including emergency services, healthcare, utilities, transportation, manufacturing, entertainment and retail. And poorly designed shift-work arrangements and long working hours often results in an imbalance between the demands of work with rest and recovery – the consequences of which can be fatigue, accidents, injuries and ill health2.

Tiredness and fatigue can be a major source of stress among employees and can significantly affect their capacity to function. This can result in a reduced ability to process information, memory lapses, absent-mindedness, decreased awareness, underestimation of risk of accidents.

Organisational responsibilities

Managers have a duty of care which includes providing a healthy work environment for employees. It is the responsibility of business leaders to identify workplace hazards which may be associated with tiredness and fatigue such as long working hours; and understand the specific work tasks that might be impacted by tiredness and fatigue and potentially result in greater consequences e.g. driving for work or performing safety critical tasks. 

If you are concerned about an employee, an employee reports tiredness or fatigue or there has been an increase in near misses/accidents reported, you need to review your responsibilities and take the opportunity to remedy the situation. This may include simply having a conversation with the individual and/or making some adjustments to their work task. Or it might include a more detailed risk assessment review, consulting with your Health and Safety Officer; or undertaking a wider piece of work with senior management, Human Resources and Occupational Health.

Employee wellbeing is important in creating a positive and healthy work environment. By developing a healthy culture, you have an opportunity to strengthen and motivate your employees.  

Wellbeing services are best supported by an accredited occupational health service provider whose role is to keep employees well, both physically and mentally. RPS is a SEQOHS3 (Safe, Effective, Quality Occupational Health Service) accredited organisation. We’ll work with you to develop a tailored programme of Health and Wellbeing. Our dedicated Occupational team are also available to deliver individual and/or group proactive education events or structured wellbeing programmes to suit your specific needs.

For support in this area, please contact Caroline Pearson, Customer Services Director on 01623 657446 or by email on caroline.pearson@rpsgroup.com

For more information on this and other health and wellbeing services, please visit our website. https://www.rpsgroup.com/services/health-safety-and-risk/occupational-health/

References

  1. National Institute of Health Care Excellence. Clinical Knowledge Summaries – tiredness /fatigue in adults. Revised February 2015. https://cks.nice.org.uk/tirednessfatigue-in-adults#!topicSummary.
  2. Health and Safety Executive. Human factors: fatigue - http://www.hse.gov.uk/humanfactors/topics/fatigue.htm
  3. SEQOHS - https://www.seqohs.org/

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