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Three common causes of work-related incidents

In 2016, 178 workers lost their lives doing their job in Australia and recent data from WorkSafe Victoria reported there were 26,000 incidents at work during the same period.

While Australia’s work-related fatality rates have been steadily trending downwards, on this World Day for Safety and Health at Work, we question why there are still so many incidents and what more can be done to prevent future work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses?

Why are accidents still occurring after decades of serious safety management efforts and increased societal demands to improve standards and regulations? Today, many workers are facing an increasing pressure to meet the demands of modern working life. With this pressure workers experience fatigue, stress and mental distractions – three main causes of work-related incidents.


Fatigue can be caused by work-related factors, factors outside of work and/or a combination of both; which accumulates over time when someone pushes themselves beyond reasonable limits to stay on top of the workload. This usually translates into physical and mental exhaustion, impaired judgment, slower reflexes, delayed response to emergency situations as well as inattention to details and instructions.

   Work-related Factors

   Factors Outside Work

   Roster Patterns    Poor Quality of Sleep
   Lengths of Shifts    Sleep Loss
   Poor Work Scheduling and Planning    Social Life
   Length of Time Worked    Family Needs
   Timing of Shifts    Other Employment
   Insufficient Recovery Times Between Shifts    Travel Time
   Inadequate Rest Breaks    Sleep Disorders

*Adapted from WorkSafe Victoria


Work-related stress is now acknowledged by many as a global issue affecting workers in multiple professions. Risks such as increased competition, higher performance expectations and longer working hours are affecting workplaces in a way which creates more stressful working environments. According to Safety and Health Magazine, stress can also lead to an increase in workplace incidents. This is emphasised by Dr David Spiegel, medical director of the Stanford Center on Stress and Health; stating a direct correlation between a rise in worker stress and a rise in workplace accidents.

“It’s very clear that a big proportion of safety problems are due to human error, and some of that is related to stress.” – David Spiegel

Stress can also contribute to distraction as a stressed worker is more likely to think about the stress source rather than the task at hand.

Mental Distractions

Everyone has a life outside of the workplace, and sometimes it can affect our emotions and mood negatively. Have you ever thought about the unpleasant scenes at home while operating equipment at work? Perhaps chatting with a colleague while climbing a ladder or mixing hazardous chemicals? To some, it may seem harmless but think again.

Mental distractions often lead to inattention. Whether you’re worrying, daydreaming or chatting, mental distractions can delay and hinder the ability to secure situations such as hazards or defects in machines. Although it can be difficult at times to block out distractions and focus on the work at hand, a good way to do so is to use rest breaks as a way to control your distractions, improve your discipline and prioritise the job.

No matter how attentive or conscientious you are about observing health and safety rules in the workplace, the potential for workplace incidents is ever-present. Not only will workers become less safe, productive and aware of their surroundings; costing the business time and money, they will also be exposed to the risk of hospitalisation or even worse consequences.

Preventing and reducing fatigue, stress and mental distractions can lead to:

+   Better health and safety outcomes
+   Fewer workplace incidents and injuries
+   Reductions in absenteeism and staff turnover
+   Better performance and productivity

Vigilance at all levels in an organisation is crucial in maintaining a safe working environment and preventing incidents from happening.

If you would like to know more about managing fatigue, stress and mental distractions and how to improve Health and Safety in your workplace, contact TMS Consulting on 07 3003 1473 or email

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TMS Consulting