Workplace Health and Safety Queensland have come out with a newly minted guide to preventing and managing fatigue-related risk in the workplace. This is to provide business with information, knowledge and strategies to meet their duty of care obligations to identify and control fatigue-related risks.

This handbook aims to help employers understand their duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and provides guidance on how to:

  • Identify hazards and risks related to fatigue
  • Consult and communicate with workers
  • Eliminate and minimise risks
  • Respond to and learn from incidents involving fatigue to improve prevention efforts

The handbook has been designed as a resource for managers, supervisors, health and safety representatives and others involved in developing strategies to control fatigue-related risk in the workplace.

What is fatigue? Fatigue is more than just feeling tired and drowsy. In a work context, fatigue is a state of mental or physical exhaustion which reduces a person’s ability to perform work safely and effectively. It is a condition that can result from excessive work, inadequate or disturbed sleep, physical exertion, mental exertion, or prolonged waking times.

Fatigue can be, in some cases, a natural response to the mental and physical effort of everything we do. Adequate sleep is essential for reducing fatigue and promoting recovery. Signs and symptoms of fatigue can typically be grouped into three categories: physical, cognitive and emotional. It is important to note however that these signs and symptoms may be due to causes other than fatigue, or not necessarily be attributed to work.

Hospitality is regarded as a low risk industry in terms of workplace health and safety, so the consequences that could result out of a worker suffering from fatigue and causing an accident is lesser than those who work in some other industries. That said, there are always risks attached in cellars and other areas where staff are working with carbon dioxide gas, hazardous chemicals, heat as in kitchens, kegs and cartons, forklifts, wet areas etc.

The burden of meeting workplace obligations such as this is a shared responsibility between you and your workers. They also have a duty regarding fatigue management and are required to take reasonable care of their own health and safety in the workplace, and the health and safety of others who may be affected by their actions. The reason this publication is issued as guidance, rather than as a Code of Practice, which has more force in terms of the law, is that the nature of contributing factors relating to fatigue can be vague and multi-faceted, and may not be attributed to one particular party. A copy of the guide can be found on the regulator’s website.