Fatigue as dangerous as booze

April 23rd, 2008 - 2:25 pm ICT by admin  

Sydney, April 23 (IANS) Miners working more than eight consecutive 12-hour day shifts were found to be as fatigued as if they had imbibed large quantities of alcohol, according to James Cook University study. Similarly dangerous levels of fatigue were also observed at the end of the first three night shifts in the most comprehensive study on occupational fatigue ever conducted by any research body.

Reinhold Muller of James Cook University and his team followed 55 miners at a fly-in/fly-out mine site through the 10 day and eight night shifts of their 28 day roster, collecting extensive data regarding a wide variety of risks, causes and effects of fatigue.

Fatigue is a complex syndrome of physical and mental effects that ultimately leads to a loss of performance, said Muller. “So a variety of measures were required to detail the causes and effects,” he said.

“We collected data of not only how the miners performed in response time tests, but also how the miners felt both physically and mentally at the start and finish of every day and night shift.”

“The main causes of fatigue were a roster of more than eight consecutive shifts, and a disturbed daily rhythm when changing over to night shifts,” he said.

Much of the existing research uses indirect measures of fatigue, such as comparing staff turnover or injuries to hours of work. “It overlooks other important risk factors, such as dehydration, physical fitness, lifestyle, and general health,” Muller said.

The results of the study have been used to develop specific strategies to prevent fatigue, including reducing the length of the roster to eight consecutive day shifts, and increasing lighting in the workplace and scheduled power naps breaks for workers to overcome fatigue during night shift.

These findings have been reported in the Annals of Occupational Hygiene.

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