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Occupational fatigue and the ‘white collar’ worker [Blog]


Picture of male office worker stressed and fatigued.There is a general misconception that fatigue management is predominantly a ‘blue collar’ issue, no doubt spawned by video and YouTube clips that graphically portray the results of micro sleeps whilst driving, or lapses of concentration when undertaking operational activities at depots or operating heavy equipment.  Rarely though is occupational fatigue seen as being a significant risk for ‘white collar’ workplaces.

Unfortunately the reality is somewhat different.

Whilst ‘white collar’ workers may not face the same level of risk of physical injury or harm arising from fatigue that ‘blue collar’ workers do, nevertheless they still run the risk of impairment.

Fatigue is a state of impairment and can affect our:

  • Health i.e. physical and mental
  • Relationships i.e. work and home
  • Motor skills
  • Cognitive ability.

It should be noted that fatigue doesn’t only affect motor skills but it also impairs our cognitive functioning including the acquisition, processing, retention and recall of information, and judgment. This has serious business implications for businesses where employees are working long hours, rosters and/or may be under significant stress due to the pressures of work.

White collar professions where the risk from fatigue are high include:

  • Legal e.g. solicitors and barristers
  • Healthcare workers e.g. doctors and nursing staff
  • Accounting e.g. tax, audit, professional advice
  • Building and construction e.g. construction estimators
  • ICT e.g. programmers and coders
  • Banking e.g. foreign exchange traders

A simple miscalculation by an accountant, an estimator or foreign exchange trader can cost a business thousands of dollars, perhaps millions.

Of course fatigue also affects productivity, resulting in decreased efficiency and increased error rates, wastage and rework.

The Commonwealth and State Workplace Health & Safety Acts apply to ALL businesses and requires them to provide employees with a safe work environment.

Is fatigue a significant hazard for your business? How well do you manage fatigue? What can you do to mitigate the risks arising from fatigue in the office workplace?

Here’s a few tips to get you started.

  1. Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS)
    Set up and maintain a FRMS system that incorporates:
  2. Education and Awareness
    Make your staff aware of the risks arising from fatigue and provide training for them in how to best management fatigue.

      1. Assignment and communication of fatigue risk management roles, responsibilities and accountabilities
      2. Application of a risk management approach to fatigue
      3. Effective communication and consultation with staff with regard to fatigue risk management
      4. Development and implementation of appropriate policies, guidelines and supporting systems e.g. recording and reporting of hazards, near misses, and incidents
      5. Conduct of regular audits of fatigue risk management and incorporate fatigue risk management into the ‘continuous improvement’ process
  3. Develop a proactive safety culture
    Develop, implement and maintain a healthy safety culture where everyone sees fatigue risk management as being their responsibility and their behaviours reflect this.
  4. Fatigue Risk Assessment Tools
    Provide your staff with tools to better assess and manage fatigue, for example, a fatigue self-assessment tool that allows workers to assess their fatigue-related symptoms and level of risk.

If you lack the resources or expertise to implement an effective FRMS, don’t hesitate to contact us on 07 3003 1473 or

About the author

TMS Consulting