Quarry workers' guide to fighting fatigue

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There’s nothing quite like fatigue – the feeling of bone tiredness that makes day-to-day tasks seem like major life hurdles.

So how can you tell if you’re a just bit tired, or really fatigued? According to Safe Work Australia’s Guide for managing the risk of fatigue at work, the following signs are a good indication: excessive yawning or falling asleep; short-term memory problems and an inability to concentrate; reduced capacity to communicate; impaired decision-making and judgment; reduced hand-eye coordination or slow reflexes; repeatedly arriving late for work; or increased rates of unplanned absence.

You might also experience symptoms not so obvious to others, including: feeling drowsy; headaches; dizziness; difficulty concentrating; blurred vision or impaired visual perception; needing extended sleep during days off work.

Sleeping problems and fatigue can be caused by lots of things – some relating to work and others not. These can include: medical conditions; alcohol or drug use; prescription medications; grief; depression, anxiety or stress; shift work and long shifts; repetitious work or repeated long days including driving to and from your worksite.

Often you can’t control your work hours or the work conditions that might add to tiredness, but you can influence your amount and quality of sleep. If you’re often sleep deprived, try these:

  • Identify any major lifestyle factors and consult your GP if needed.
  • Avoid napping during the day (or night if you do shift work).
  • Limit caffeine after 3pm (or halfway through your shift if you’re on nights).
  • Ensure your bed is comfortable and your bedroom is dark (use blackout curtains during the day). Use ear plugs and eye masks if it’s still too light.
  • Develop a bedtime routine: warm shower, hot milk or herbal tea and a quick read (nothing too interesting).
  • Maintain the room temperature between 18 and 24°C.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and screen time (mobile phones, computers) before bedtime.
  • Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, but not in the couple of hours before sleep. 

Most adults need around seven to eight hours of sleep per night for good health and wellbeing. If you’re working long hours or shift work and accumulate a ‘sleep debt’ of 10 or more hours over the course of a week, sleep experts suggest adding three to four hours of extra sleep over the weekend followed by an extra one to two hours per night for the following week.

And on a final note, quarrying families often say that a big fatigue concern relates to loved ones driving home at the end of a long shift. Companies generally issue their own directives on this for the safety of workers, but it’s worth reinforcing that nothing is as important as getting home safely.

Government road safety websites urge us not to get behind the wheel when we’re tired; not to drive when we’re normally asleep; to take 10-minute breaks every two hours; and get plenty of fresh air.