A new Conference Board of Canada survey finds that 27 per cent of Canadian workers report being fatigued most days or every day during a typical work week.

  • 27 per cent of workers surveyed report being fatigued most days or every day during a typical work week.
  • When asked about their work productivity on days they were tired, 42 per cent of employees reported that their productivity and performance were somewhat or significantly worse.
  • Stress and job demands are among the single biggest factors contributing to Canadian employees’ lack of sleep.

Fatigue is the condition of being physically or mentally tired or exhausted. Extreme fatigue can lead to uncontrolled and involuntary shutdown of the brain.  When you’re fatigued you will make errors in judgment. Your mind or eyes can be off task and you can make a critical error.  It is very important to be aware of yourself. Getting plenty of sleep is a very important part of your personal safety.

Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep each 24-hour day. Sleep loss built up slowly over several nights can be as harmful as sleep loss in one night. Both produce a decline in performance such as slower reaction times, failure to respond to changes, and the inability to concentrate and make reasonable judgments.  If you do not take a proactive step you may be the one to be negatively impacted when an accident occurs.

Here are some things to look for in your coworkers to help identify fatigue.

  • Their job performance slows.
  • Their job quality is reduced.
  • They can’t recall their last thought, conversation, or what they did a moment ago.
  • They have trouble solving problems.
  • They make errors.
  • They have a near-miss accident.
  • They have trouble focusing.
  • The head droops.
  • They can’t stop yawning.

How to fight fatigue

Despite the fact that working nights and early mornings does not promote good health, shift work is a necessary part of today’s work environment. Expensive machinery has to operate to its capacity. Goods have to arrive “just in time.” Patients in hospitals need care around the clock.

Lifestyle, operations and physiological disorders are key components in the fight against fatigue.

Workers can reduce fatigue through proper nutrition, stress control and exercise. A healthy diet provides longer-lasting energy — concentrate on complex carbohydrates (starch) rather than simple carbohydrates (sugar); and avoid fatty foods and junk food. Don’t let negative circumstances get the better of you. And regular exercise is important — cardiovascular, muscle strengthening and flexibility.

Employers can avoid placing workers in jeopardy by analyzing working conditions, addressing operational safety disincentives and conducting sleep-safety training. Shorter shifts and work rotation schedules that go in the direction of the sun (morning, afternoon, night) have been found to reduce the negative effects.