For construction workers and industry managers, major safety precautions are focused on machinery. Work safety campaigns are focused on keeping machinery safeguards up to date, asking for help, and eliminating threats to workers. The threat may in fact be the workers themselves.
A 2010 Sydney study has highlighted the risks involved with fatigue in the construction arena. Dr. Margaret Chan PhD of the University of Sydney found that fatigue was the number one risk factor on a construction site. This was closely followed by stress. Two human factors that need to be more closely evaluated by industry Work Safe officers and company heads in order to eliminate this huge apparent risk.
Dr. Chan compared high levels of fatigue to being over the alcohol limit when driving a crane or other heavy machinery. The individual’s awareness levels are at roughly the same level as someone with a blood alcohol level of .10%. In risky areas where not only the individuals on site are being put at risk, but others to come through for inspections and finally when projects are ready for use, the potential risk includes more than the fatigued individual.
With approximately 600,000 workplace accidents and illnesses each year, the push for more new work safe strategies is only too relevant. While there are Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) programs in terms of stress and fatigue for current adult workers, this point is being pushed by ACTU worksite, an online work place safety group focusing on 15 – 24 year olds. This age group is the most likely to be injured onsite, due to inexperience and a need to please or prove themselves.
The other issue that is often the catalyst for fatigue is stress. It has been proven that stress is usually relevant in workers who have a high workload, little control over their work choices as well as little or no authority. Stress in the workplace can manifest in forms of depression, anxiety, fatigue and an inability to concentrate which all lead to poor work performance. All of these issues are potentially harmful.
An area where this harmful behaviour is being carefully taken into consideration is in Alberta, Canada. In a recent Workplace Health and Safety Bulletin, fatigue was the main OH&S issue explored. Not only does the bulletin emphasise the potential ‘danger hours’ between 6pm and midnight and 1pm and 3pm it offers ways in which workers may in fact overcome this feeling of fatigue.
The main initiative that can be taken now is communication. This is the avenue that all of the above mediums are promoting. Through communication with employers and fellow workers, it is possible to have others evaluate an individuals fatigue levels and garner support.
Dr. Chan said that stress and fatigue strategies should be written into all OH&S models in order to be completely satisfying responsible duty of care. Although a lot of work places are taking up this initiative, without greater communication between managerial staff and onsite workers, as well as stricter more stringent policies in place, it is almost impossible to gauge the stress and fatigue levels of workers.
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