Fatigue Management

There is a popular saying for retiring people or those approaching retirement age - 'Why should you retire? Unless you are tired' Corollary is also true which has great positive message for all of us that- if you take care of ‘tiring process’, not allow yourself to be tired or fatigued, you can continue to be healthy, active, happy and making contributions to society. In Japan, nobody retires and they continue serving the society till the last breath of life. In U.K., the judges have no retirement age, they lay down their office at will i.e. whenever they feel like doing so.

But, dear friends - let us not underestimate fatigue. Even strong parts of steel do suffer or break owing to fatigue failure

While on the subject of ‘Fatigue’, it has a very simple definition- as a state of tiredness leading to reduced mental and/or physical performance. The onset of fatigue while at work can decrease a person’s alertness and compromise his/her motor skills, reflex ability, judgement, decision-making - all having adverse implications at workplace performance - in terms of quantum of output, quality, efficiency, effectiveness. The most worrisome aspect is that such state can endanger the workplace Safety, health and well-being of the people around and can even result in catastrophe or emergencies in the surroundings, such as fires, gas-leaks, mass-sufferings, etc.

In history, there are quite a few exceptionally stout, strong willed, defiant and determined examples who have worked tirelessly without taking even normal hours of rest- such as at least 6 hrs. of sleep per day. Sir Winston Churchill took 2.5 hrs. of sleep per day (on average) for entire period of 6 years of Second World War from 1939 to 1945. He also defied doctor’s advice to refrain from excessive drinking and smoking cigars while having hefty and overweight body. We all know that he actively survived for nearly a century. Our own Indian P.M. Mr. Narendra Modi sleeps 3 hrs. a day and works for 18 hrs. daily. He is able to recoup with such short but intensively deep sleep and yogi practices. Napoleon Bonaparte, the great general was able to recoup by sleeping on the back of his horse.

But definitely, these cannot serve as examples to common people.

Human body has a natural circadian rhythm, guided by built-in alarm clock which tells the body when to sleep, when to wake-up, when to eat/drink, when to work efficiently both physically and mentally, when to take intermediate breaks with stretches and refreshing postures. Calm and undisturbed sleep for 6-7 hrs. a day is an essential requirement for maintaining a healthy working life. There is no alternative or any compensating method for sleep. It is a unique natural asset for the recoupment of human body and mind.

Elements contributing to fatigue can be broadly grouped as:

Most of the labour laws framed under the national legislature and under the guidance provided by ILO, have taken into consideration the human factors of working , for male and female workers both, such as long hours of work at a stretch, shift-change patterns, loads to be handled manually by adults, adolescent and child workers, etc. Inherent in the labour laws is the spirit of human welfare and making work more humane. Fatigue management is the important ingredient of labour legislation. Formation of National Standards in all civilized countries also aims to achieve the same goal in spirit, even though there are no formal national standards on Fatigue Management separately.

Every work-minded and progressive organization realises the fact that fatigue in working staff is a major drag which does not allow the people to give their best in any field of operation. It is particularly applicable and visible in the fighting forces. A fatigued force cannot win over the enemy. The example of Alexander the Great is before all of us in history. Realising the fact that his army was totally fatigued and exhausted, he abandoned the eastward campaign towards mighty Magadh Empire. He was convinced that such an adventure shall be totally disastrous and defeat was certain.

In the hazardous industrial field, it is particularly applicable that fatigue has very adverse effect on workplace safety and health performance. Management is advised to have a sound and relevant to real work situation fatigue management policy, plan, programme and follow-up the implementation process at ground level. The major steps may be briefed as follows:

Fatigue is an adverse element, not only at the workplace , but rather everywhere including personal and daily life. All of us ought to take care to overcome fatigue by some general prescriptions such as:-