‘Spotlight on… worker fatigue’ follow-up article

In September 2019, the Scheme launched ‘Spotlight on… worker fatigue’ to raise awareness of this significant health and safety issue facing the industry.

How can fatigue affect health and safety?

Fatigue can slow reaction times, create lapses in judgement, reduce concentration and coordination, diminish cognitive ability and cause individuals to underestimate risk.

In the construction industry, individuals can often endure physically and mentally demanding work over long hours and irregular shift patterns and in an industry where hazardous activity is commonplace, this can cause a significant range of issues.

Views from the construction industry

Of over 1000 construction industry professionals surveyed in 2019, 75% thought that worker fatigue is a problem within the industry. However there appeared to be a lack of awareness as 73% believed that it is an overlooked hazard and only 5% had a thorough understanding of the regulations surrounding it.

The Campaign

In response to these concerning statistics, the Considerate Constructors Scheme launched ‘Spotlight on… worker fatigue’ in September 2019. It provides a variety of free resources to allow everyone to improve their knowledge and understanding of worker fatigue. This includes examples of best practice and practical guidance and also a range of case studies from organisations involved in the Scheme, including: A-one+, J. Murphy & Sons, Morgan Sindall and VolkerRail.

Coronavirus and worker fatigue

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the way the construction industry is working has temporarily changed in some instances and this could affect workers in several ways.

  • The Government has approved the extension of working hours on construction sites if approved by the local councils. In this case, the contractor should make sure that operatives working hours are not extended. If working hours are to be amended, workers should still receive the necessary breaks in between their shifts to allow for adequate rest.
  • Due to the pressures of finishing a project to schedule, workers may find it difficult to take annual leave and may also be worried about losing their annual leave if they do not feel they can take it. The Government has made an amendment in the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 which states that workers will be able to carry their unused annual leave over for two years if they are unable to take it at this time. It is however recommended that regular breaks from work are taken.
  • Mental Health issues may increase in these times with worker’s stress levels increased due to reasons such as job security, financial insecurity and health concerns. These issues can all contribute to being fatigued. Contractors should make sure they are looking out for the signs of colleagues who may be struggling with their mental health. For more information on this visit our ‘Spotlight on… mental health’ campaign.
  • Some workers in the construction industry may be working from home as they may not need to be on site to perform their role. It is important these workers take regular breaks and also attempt to stay mentally and physically active outside of working hours. As a contractor, it is important to keep in touch with remote workers to see how they are getting on during this time. Regular communication through technologies such as video calls with an individual or a whole team can also assist with bringing everyone together and feeling connected to the wider team.

What’s changed?

Scheme Monitors visit thousands of construction sites and offices every year, providing them with insights into industry attitudes and practices.

Monitors took part in a survey earlier this year to understand if the industry has shown any developments in knowledge and awareness of the issue of worker fatigue in the months since the campaign’s launch.

Survey results

Many factors inherent in construction work exacerbate fatigue, so it may take a while for lasting change to take effect within the industry, however the results of the survey conducted with Scheme Monitors demonstrate progress is being made, following the launch of the campaign:

  • Greater awareness: 61% of Scheme Monitors feel that more sites and companies are aware of the need to address worker fatigue.
  • Improvements being made: 70% have seen some improvement in how sites and companies are dealing with fatigue.
  • Campaign impact: 57% believe that these improvements are either partly or largely due to ‘Spotlight on…worker fatigue’.

Although awareness seems to have increased, the survey also indicates there is still room for improvement and action:

  • Only 6% of Scheme Monitors have regularly seen worker fatigue initiatives during their visits, since the campaign’s launch.
  • Just 42% believe that more sites are raising awareness of the issue through site inductions and toolbox talks.
  • Only 3% have seen a considerable improvement in how worker fatigue is being managed and none had seen a major improvement.

What next?

Following this feedback, ‘Spotlight on…worker fatigue’ has now been further developed with some excellent examples of how the construction industry has been tackling the issue since its launch, as well as a new case study.

A new case study has been published in conjunction with Gym On Site, an organisation who conduct onsite stretch-and-flex programmes. The study explains why these programmes are beneficial to workforce health. Read the case study here.

A new e-learning course is also available to continue to raise awareness and understanding of the impact worker fatigue has in the construction industry.

This free course aims to increase understanding of worker fatigue and is available to all Best Practice Hub registered users.

Click here to take ‘Worker Fatigue’ e-learning

If you would like to share how your organisation is working to reduce worker fatigue into construction, please submit an entry to the Best Practice Hub or contact the Scheme at enquiries@ccsbestpractice.org.uk

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