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Making fitness for duty decisions about fatigue

You need to follow your organisation’s procedures for what to do if you think someone might not be alert enough to work safely, or if they report a concern about their fitness for duty. If the procedure says that you need to decide what to do in this situation, here are some things to consider.

Things to remember:

  • Everybody is different in terms of what they need to stay alert. Talk to the individual. Use their thoughts and your experience and knowledge of them and their work to decide what to do. Use our guide to prepare for conversations about fatigue.
  • Consider how their performance might be affected over the whole shift as well as their commute, especially if they are undertaking safety critical work, driving, etc.
  • Fatigue is not the only reason why people may not be fit for duty. For example, they may have physical or mental health issues. It is important that you consider these issues, but this guide is only about fatigue.

You should try and answer the following questions to help you make a decision:

1. Are they showing signs or symptoms of fatigue?

Read about the signs and symptoms of fatigue here (requires SPRAK login). If they are showing symptoms, then you should make arrangements to ensure they are safe and do not put others at risk. But a lack of visible symptoms does not necessarily mean that they are alert.

2. Have they had enough sleep?

Below are some rough guidelines on sleep. Everyone’s different, and many things affect fatigue - people may be too tired even within these guidelines. If in doubt, put safety first, and don’t put yourself or others at risk. People’s performance is likely to be impaired if ANY of these is true:

Important note: these are rough rules-of-thumb, not “limits to work up to”. They may not be right for everyone and in all situations because

  • A “safe” amount of sleep for one person may not be enough for someone else.
  • Other factors affect fatigue e.g. sleep quality, general health & well-being, the nature of the tasks & working environment, and time of day/night.

Using rough guidelines like these may have prevented incidents where, for whatever reason, people did not get enough sleep but thought they would be OK…

3. Have they been exposed to anything that could cause them to suffer from fatigue?

There are lots of things that could cause fatigue. Here are some factors that can affect whether or not a person suffers from fatigue.

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