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Firms need to ‘wake up’ to staff fatigue

With fines for corporate manslaughter having increased to £20 million under the new sentencing guidelines, large businesses are being urged to guard against staff fatigue.

Imperago, a software and service company has recently published a paper outlining the importance of taking staff fatigue into account when devising staff working patterns. Major companies convicted of corporate manslaughter that have a turnover of £50 million or more could now face fines of up to £20 million according to guidelines by the Sentencing Council that were announced recently.

Imperago says that whilst there are many lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue, so too can work related factors such as time of working and resting periods, length and number of consecutive work duties and intensity of work demands.

Rob Ayers, group customer account manager at Imperago explained:

“Many organisations with complex 24/7 shift and rostering operations have built up work patterns over the years. Rarely do these working patterns get reviewed to ensure that they are meeting the requirements of the business today, if they are the most efficient, and crucially, if they safeguard against staff fatigue.”

Stated in the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) Managing shift work – health and safety guidance, ‘fatigue increases the likelihood of errors and adversely affects performance’ especially in tasks requiring vigilance and monitoring, decision making, fast reaction time, and memory. Fatigued staff often don’t adequately perceive risk and may tolerate risks they would usually find unacceptable.

Ayers added:

“While many software systems can devise the most mathematically efficient shift patterns, they do not take account of staff fatigue, compliance regulations or unions. It takes considerable skill to balance meeting the requirements of the business without upsetting the unions or compromising staff wellbeing.

“However, introducing staff friendly shifts and work patterns that give weekends off as often as possible, ensure that rest days aren’t split and that ensure adequate breaks from work is a great bargaining chip when looking to make changes.

“While complying with working time legislation and negotiating with unions may put many companies off re-examining their working patterns, the new heavier fines for Corporate Manslaughter should serve as a wake-up call. Staff fatigue is an issue that should be tackled – most organisations will benefit with more efficient operations and a more engaged workforce.”

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