Protecting your team from fatigue, dehydration and heat stress (part 1)

Ensuring the health and safety of workers is a non-negotiable across mining and industrial workplaces. But fighting fatigue, dehydration and heat-stress is the elemental challenge in WA’s hot and dry environment. Especially on remote worksites.

We believe everyone from management to suppliers has a role to play in making our industry safer. In this series of posts, we will be sharing our tips, strategies, and solutions to making your workplace safer, and your people healthier and happier.

Fatigue. What is it and Why is it Dangerous? 

Fatigue isn’t just feeling a little tired or drowsy, fatigue is a level of exhaustion that affects a person’s ability to function mentally and physically. This kind of exhaustion occurs because of intense and sustained physical or mental activity, disruption of the circadian rhythm, and/or sleep loss (sounds a lot like working in mining, doesn’t it?).

Demanding jobs, night shifts, long shifts, and not enough time between shifts, are common workplace causes of fatigue. In workplaces where tasks are critical and require high levels of concentration, fatigue can be deadly.

Watch out for these signs of fatigue:

    • Tiredness and lethargy
    • Slow reflexes and reduced coordination
    • Concentration and memory problems
    • Impaired or blurred vision
    • The need for extended sleep (greater than ~12 hours) during days off

How to Reduce the Risk of Fatigue 

Maintaining a safe work environment that effectively manages fatigue is everyone’s responsibility. Although supervisors are ultimately responsible that work is carried out in a safe manner, workers are obliged to take reasonable actions to ensure their own health and safety on the job.

Here’s some practical advice for both:

Tips for Management and Supervisors 

    • Consult with your workers on the effect of their workloads and work schedules
      • Do your workers need more time to rest between shifts? A day off?
    • Examine and adapt your work practices and systems
      • What’s your work culture like? Are employees able to take breaks when necessary?
    • Investigate worker records
      • Look at your sign in sheets. Are people working excessive hours?
    • Talk with your Human Resources team
      • Are there high rates of unplanned absence or staff turnover? Could fatigue be a cause?
    • Review incident data
      • Has worker fatigue caused any of these incidents? How can they be prevented in the future?
    • Ensure your workers have adequate facilities for respite
      • Is there somewhere on-site where workers can sit down out of the heat and sun?

Tips for Workers 

    • Observe your workplaces’ policies regarding fatigue
      • Are they working for you? Is there anything you need to discuss with your boss?
    • Manage your sleep and recovery needs on your days off
      • Most adults need 7+ hours of sleep to function at their best
    • Observe your levels of alertness and concentration at work
      • Not feeling on-the-ball and making mistakes you usually wouldn’t?
    • Talk with your supervisor and take breaks when exhausted, or if you see yourself becoming exhausted
      • Even small breaks from strenuous activity can make a big difference in preventing fatigue
    • Maintain a light physical exercise and stretching routine
      • If you’ve been sitting in front of a screen all day or operating machinery, light physical exercise and stretching gets the blood-flowing, and keeps you alert.
    • Stay hydrated
      • Adults should drink 6-8 glasses of fluid a day and more when hot or during physical activity.
    • Seek health and medical advice
      • Talk to your doctor if you’re having problems with your quality of sleep or feeling run-down more often than usual.

We hope these tips and strategies will help your team this summer — stay tuned for next week’s post where we’ll be giving more practical advice on fighting dehydration.

A Modified Container Solution

Our team builds modified containers fitted out with powerful air-conditioning, comfortable bench seating, and the best in industrial ice-machines, water dispensers and freezers.

We call them Respite & Rehydration Containers — dedicated, transportable spaces for protecting your team from heat stress, dehydration and fatigue on remote worksites.

Would this solution work for you?

Learn more here.