Manufacturing Safety for Manitoba

Pre-Holiday or Pandemic Exhaustion? The Dangers of Workplace Fatigue

Pre-Holiday or Pandemic Exhaustion? The Dangers of Workplace Fatigue

Posted on December 1, 2021

By Gib Perkin & Michael Cardillo

 

As we wrap up 2021, everyone can attest that we’ve been faced with another year full of challenges. Between the pandemic (yes, we’re tired of hearing about it, too), supply chain issues, labour depletion and trade disputes, we’ll be honest – we’re tired!

Now, the holiday season is here once again. In a normal year, the holidays bring along their own stressors; the days become shorter, spare time becomes scarce, not to mention pushing through crowded malls on gift-buying expeditions.

Any of these can leave a person tired, fatigued or exhausted. But, while these terms are often used interchangeably, there are significant differences between being tired, being fatigued or being exhausted. These three conditions are very different, representing three points on a spectrum and each bringing its own set of hazards into both our work and home lives.

 

Let’s get into the differences between these three terms:

Tired is a condition that virtually all of us have experienced 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, enjoying down-time or regular trips to the gym.

Fatigued is another condition whose symptoms include signs of anxiety, restless sleep, difficulty concentrating on a task 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 self care.

Exhaustion brings its own symptoms, such as a sudden loss of energy, sudden loss of memory, difficulty staying awake or alert or dizziness. Some symptoms can have longer-term effects; these may 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.

 

A contributing factor in 13 percent of workplace injuries, workplace fatigue has a costly financial impact on businesses. A study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that US businesses lose more than $100 billion per year to fatigue-related absenteeism and reduced productivity.

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. By recognizing the symptoms of (and the differences between) being tired, fatigued or exhausted, we can keep ourselves and others safer in the workplace and in our day-to-day lives.

This holiday break is a wonderful opportunity to take some time to yourself. Unplugging from the stress of work, enjoying time at home with loved ones or catching up on hobbies and leisure can go a long way in preventing the onset of fatigue and exhaustion. Doing these simple things will have you recharged and ready for 2022. From all of us at Made Safe, have a safe and happy holiday season!

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