Fatigue risks – Physical effects

Increased risks of accidents in the workplace or while travelling

Poor quality and quantity of sleep have been shown to correlate significantly with motor vehicle accidents and fatalities.

Physical effects

There is strong evidence to indicate that chronic sleep loss may induce neurobiological changes that can lead to serious health consequences such as an increased likelihood of cardiovascular diseases, impaired immune function and the exacerbation and early onset of Type II diabetes. For example, one study found that for those individuals sleeping six hours or less a night, there was a 48 per cent increase in the likelihood of developing, or dying from, heart disease.

In addition to the above risks, there is also now a growing body of evidence to suggest that chronic sleep loss (such as long-term fatigue) is associated with the exacerbation of certain mental health issues such as schizophrenia and clinical depression.

What should be done?

HSE’s current guidance on fatigue is focused on ‘shift workers’ where the risks of fatigue can be more acute. That guidance can still be applied to any workplace and working pattern and should be used to complement an organisation’s current safety management approach.

Fatigue is a hazard that an be assessed and mitigated just as any other; whether that is currently the position within organisations is a matter for health and safety professionals to reflect on.

HSE – Fatigue and Risk Index Calculator Jan 2016

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