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The Fatigue Insider Blog

Fatigue and mining: Digging into the issue

Feb 12, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

Across heavy industry, including mining, fatigue has been shown to be the greatest single cause of workplace accidents. As such, addressing fatigue in miners is an issue of safety as well as an issue of productivity and employee wellbeing. An employee that is fatigued is one whose decision making, fine-motor skills, and emotional stability are severely limited. This can have far-reaching consequences for the individual, for their co-workers, and even for the wider environment.

The mining industry often uses shift-work schedules in order to maintain a productive mine 24/7. We know that shift-workers are at a high risk of being fatigued, whether that be in the long or short term. Just one night of interrupted sleep can cause a decline in cognitive ability, alertness, and slower reaction times. In fact, we know that up to 65% of truck driving accidents in open pit mines are fatigue-related.

In the long-term, fatigue can contribute to chronic health issues like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Underground miners working in an environment without natural light are at an even higher risk of being fatigued, especially if they work nightshifts, as their circadian rhythms and sleeping patterns can be disrupted by the lack of blue light their eyes are able to absorb.

Many of the risks associated with fatigue can be minimised if mine operators take a proactive and preventive approach. Implementing a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) to control worker schedules and help limit shift work and excessive overtime can address many of the fatigue-related issues faced by miners.

If would like to read more on this topic, check out this article in Mining and Engineering titled ‘Mineworker fatigue: A review of what we know and future decisions’: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5983045/


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US Worksite Health ScoreCard to include fatigue

Jan 22, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

 

In a step in the right direction, the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) updated their Worksite Health ScoreCard in 2019 to include sleep and fatigue questions for the first time since it was introduced in 2012. The tool is for employers to assess whether they have implemented evidence-based health and wellbeing programs in their workplace.
 
The ScoreCard is comprehensive in nature and not intended to be a quick 'tick and flick' tool. As such, the inclusion of fatigue and sleep section signals that the CDC is taking this factor seriously in the provision of a safe and hazard-free workplace.
 
The new fatigue and sleep section includes questions on whether the workplace has written policy on scheduling that aims to reduce employee fatigue, the provision of educational materials and screenings related to sleep and common sleep disorders, as well as whether there are solutions offered to combat drowsy and distracted driving.
 
Introducing sleep and fatigue concerns into this ScoreCard alongside other important health risks like nutrition, diabetes, physical exercise, cancer, heart attacks and many others is a positive step in the right direction. It serves as an indication to employers of the importance of fatigue-related workplace concerns for the health, safety, and productivity of employees.

 

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Getting through the day when you're sleep deprived

Jan 08, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

While we absolutely do not recommend letting yourself get sleep deprived, sometimes there are days when it’s just unavoidable. So if you couldn’t sleep last night, we’ve got some tips to help you power through a work day when you’d much rather hit the snooze button. They’ll also ensure that you are not relying on behaviours that lead to continued sleepless nights.
 
Be strategic about the tasks you have to get done
Be aware that a sleep-deprived brain can sustain focus for far less time than a normal one, so try to postpone tasks that require difficult decisions and critical thinking for tomorrow. Nevertheless, there will be duties that you cannot put off, and for those, you have to think realistically about how you are going to achieve them. You might have the urge to procrastinate your more difficult tasks for later in the day, but try to get them done as early as possible, because your cognitive function will continue to decline throughout the day. Leave busy work for the end of the day, when you’ll need a break from tasks that require focused attention.
 
Caffeine is your friend
This may seem obvious, but you’ll need some caffeine to get you through the day, just don’t overdo it. Everyone’s caffeine tolerance is different, but studies have shown that the body can handle no more than 400 milligrams a day (for comparison, a shot of espresso is roughly 100 milligrams). A caffeinated drink can be really useful to get you through tasks that require intense focus, like driving, but don’t drink it to close to bedtime or you’ll continue to compound your sleep loss. Try to avoid caffeinated energy/soft drinks, as the sugar will make you crash, counteracting the effect of the caffeine.
 
Get outside and do some exercise
While it might seem like the last thing you would want to do after a sleepless night, a brisk walk in the sunlight will do you a world of good. Getting your blood flowing and producing some endorphins will energise you, so try to do this in the morning and/or throughout the day, especially if your job requires you to be mostly sedentary. The sunlight on your face will also help your brain shut off melatonin production.
 
Eat well and stay hydrated
While eating well is important every day for cognitive function, it is doubly important when your energy supplies are already depleted. Make sure you don’t skip meals, especially breakfast, as eating within an hour of waking up will boost your mood and cognitive performance for the early part of your day. When you are sleep deprived you are more likely to crave simple carbs and sugars, but avoid them at all costs, as they will likely provide a rush of unsustained energy and a crash that may leave you more tired and hungry. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water too, it’s not going to combat sleepiness, but you’ll feel much worse if you’re dehydrated as well as exhausted.

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Smart drugs: the rise of cognitive doping

Nov 13, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

 

 
More and more people are turning to pharmaceutical drugs to improve their performance at work and university, which raises a lot of questions about their efficacy and safety. How did nootropics like Modafinil go from a powerful narcolepsy drug to the centre of the conversation about doping at work and unrealistic expectations of productivity?

 

Nootropics are a broad range of drugs said to improve cognitive function, from improving memory retention to spurring creativity. The drug Modafinil keeps you awake far beyond normal limits and is said to allow you to maintain intense focus for a period of time. It was taken by helicopter pilots to stay alert as they carried US Special Forces to and from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. It can also have serious side effects like intense headaches and anxiety, and we don’t even know the long-term safety issues for those using them as a performance enhancer rather than a narcolepsy drug.

 
In 2011, just over 650,000 people in the US had Modafinil prescriptions. By 2012, that number had risen to 1.9 million, a figure not including people obtaining it illegally. Drugs like these have become more widespread in competitive and high-stakes environments like universities and Silicon Valley, as expectations about productivity have skyrocketed. We must question the kind of working environment that incentivises taking powerful drugs in order to keep up with demands.

 

It also calls into question the efficacy of using drugs like these to get a competitive edge. Is it cheating? Some sports organisations ban the usage of drugs like Adderall for those with an ADHD diagnosis for the same reasons they ban steroids and other performance enhancers. Will employer drug tests soon screen for modafinil use? Or on the contrary, will CEOs welcome the rise of extra-sharp workers who never need sleep?


 

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Is a midnight snack the key to staying alert?

Nov 06, 2019 ISS Comments (0)


A recent study by researchers at the University of South Australia looked at how food intake can affect those working the nightshift. By testing the impact of a snack, a meal, or no food at all, the study found that a simple snack was the best choice for maximising alertness and productivity.

The study looked at a small group of 44 nightshift workers over a week, dividing them into groups to test three different midnight eating patterns: a meal, a snack, and no food. They were then asked to report on their levels of hunger, gut reaction and sleepiness.
 
It found that all participants reported increased sleepiness and fatigue, but those who had a snack reduced the impact of those feelings. Additionally, the snack group did not experience the same uncomfortable gut reactions as the group that ate a meal.
 
In today’s 24/7 economy, working the nightshift is increasingly common, with industries like health care, aviation, transport and mining needing employees to work around the clock. Of Australia’s 1.4 million shift workers, over 200,000 (15%) regularly work the nightshift. Upsetting the body’s circadian rhythm in this way can be a real health and safety risk, which is why robust fatigue management needs to be in place for employee wellbeing as well as productivity.
 
Lead researcher Charlotte Gupta said that the next step is research into how different types of snacks could affect night shift workers. She says that the findings have to potential to affect thousands of shift workers; “the findings will inform the most strategic eating patterns on-shift and can hopefully contribute to more alert and better performing workers.”
 
The study can be accessed here.

 

 

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Developments in trucking laws: Fatigue risk management

Oct 30, 2019 ISS Comments (0)


 

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NVHR) is calling for more flexibility in fatigue rules in its submission to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review being conducted by the National Transport Commission.

The implementation of the submission would allow operators with demonstrably robust fatigue management systems more flexibility to manage fatigue risks. This could mean a change in framework and culture surrounding fatigue management, allowing it to expand from basic prescriptive work and rest hours.
 
Dr Adam Fletcher said, “Fatigue management is about much more than work hours and sleep. It also relates to workload, individual factors including health and sleep timing preferences, and the ability for drivers to be flexible when they feel it is safer...This development reflects a closer alignment with the point I have made publicly and with regulators for many years.”
 
NHVR CEO, Sal Petroccitto said, “the NHVR believes that prescriptive work and rest hours should still play a role in providing a minimum ‘safe harbour’ for drivers, but that a multi-tiered approach to fatigue risk management would allow flexibility for operators who take up additional, new or innovative safety practices.”
 
Current laws reduced fatigue-related crashes between 2003 and 2009, but "the rate of heavy vehicle crashes caused by driver fatigue" has been stable since then. An expansion in the scope of fatigue management to include factors like workload, health, and driver autonomy could bring the rate of fatigue-related crashes down further.

 

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Sleeping habits around the world

Oct 23, 2019 ISS Comments (0)


While we live in an increasingly globalised world, people still tend to sleep very differently in different countries. The diversity of sleeping habits around the world can reflect attitudes towards health, work-life balance, relationship to the environment, and a myriad of other cultural values. Check out some of the unusual and interesting ways people sleep, it may even introduce you to a new habit to incorporate into your own bedtime routine.

 
Japan
In Japan, the habit of falling asleep in public, whether that is on the train or even in the middle of a meeting, is actually revered. Called inemuri, or ‘sleeping while present,’ it is a sign that people have worked themselves so hard that they have exhausted themselves. It may be praised as a sign of a person’s industriousness.
 
Botswana and Zaire
Members of the !Kung tribe and the Efe tribe, hunter-gatherers from Botswana and Zaire respectively, sleep when they feel tired. This could be at any time of day for any length of time, rather than in recurring blocks. While this system may not be fully compatible with current expectations in Western countries, the act of listening to your body to give it the sleep it needs is a sure-fire way to prevent fatigue.
 
Spain and Latin America
The popularity of the famous siesta has waned in recent years as Spain has become more urbanised. Nevertheless, an afternoon rest break, especially when kept short, can improve productivity. Interestingly, the afternoon power nap has sprung up in Silicon Valley, where employees are encouraged to use sleep pods to help them remain refreshed.
 
Australia
Some Aboriginal peoples practice co-sleeping, where they line up their mattresses or swags in a line called a ‘yunta.’ This practice can maximise the safety of the group, especially by protecting the most vulnerable members sleeping in the centre.

China

 In China, it’s a popular belief that a firm bed supports the alignment of the back, promoting better sleep, a belief shared by many around the world. Some Chinese factories have also been blurring the lines between workplace and bedroom, encouraging employees to utilise in-house sleeping and washing facilities to maximise productivity.

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