An exhausting problem: the dangers of workplace fatigue

An exhausting problem: the dangers of workplace fatigue

Posted on January 3, 2018

By Gib Perkin, Safety Trainer

The difference between being tired, being fatigued or being exhausted is not something to which many of us working in manufacturing give much thought. Still, these three conditions are very different, representing three points on a spectrum and each bringing its own set of hazards into the workplace.

Between the demands of our work schedules, our home lives, our hobbies and weekend leisure activities – it’s easy to burn out. In fact, we may not even recognize that the feeling of being tired all the time may be a sign that we’ve moved on to fatigue or exhaustion.

Being tired is a condition that most, if not all of us will experience from time to time. When we’re feeling tired we can be a little more forgetful than normal. We may become irritable and impatient. We may also notice muscle weakness or soreness that seems to last a little longer than usual. But the good news is that being tired can be cured by a good night’s sleep, a quick nap after work or regular trips to the gym.

On the other hand, a fatigued person may show signs of anxiety, restless sleep, difficulty concentrating on a task at hand or a noticeable decrease in stamina. A person suffering from fatigue may need to take more serious steps to address the issue; including stepping back from over commitment and investing more consciously in selfcare.

Exhaustion brings its own symptoms and can present very real risks in a manufacturing workplace. Sudden loss of energy, sudden loss of memory, difficulty staying awake or alert are just a few of the physical symptoms of exhaustion. Other side effects include emotional withdrawal from family and friends and/or a loss of interest in the things that would normally make us happy such as leisure activities. Because the risks of exhaustion in the workplace are so high, it’s important to take steps right away to address the condition.

Further, not recognizing the symptoms of these conditions may lead to the wrong treatments. For example, if we’re tired – exercise may give us a boost of energy. But if we’re suffering from fatigue or exhaustion, exercise could make the symptoms worse. In all cases, it’s important to try not to form a dependence on caffeine and other stimulants, which can make the problem worse.

By recognizing the symptoms of (and the differences between) being tired, fatigued or exhausted, we can keep ourselves safer in the workplace and in our day-to-day lives. Taking time to check on ourselves and giving ourselves permission to take some “me time” can go a long way in preventing the onset of fatigue and exhaustion.

Source: Symptoms Oncology nurse’s forum.