Managing ‘Forklift Driver Fatigue’
One of the best ways to make sure your forklift drivers function safely in and around your business environment is to make sure they avoid a term known as ‘forklift driver fatigue’.
Fatigue is defined as the state of feeling ‘tired, weary or sleepy’ and should be considered a workplace hazard as it can be a form of visual and mental impairment.
Let’s put into context that you are a forklift driver operating the new Lithium-Ion battery forklift truck but you have not had a sufficient break period during your shift and insufficient weekly rest periods leading up to your shift. (This is actually against the government guidelines for operating forklift use and you can read our blog on what is considered long hours on a forklift). If the load on the forklift is near the maximum and you feel exhausted, accident potential begins to skyrocket. This is because concentration levels diminish leaving the possibility for stock to fall and hit racking, passers-by and in extreme cases, may result in work related death.
With all of this in mind, this article will help explore the causes and signs of workplace fatigue/forklift driver fatigue and how to combat them.
What Causes Forklift Driver Fatigue And What Are The Signs?
Forklift driver fatigue can be brought on by many different things. Some of the most common causes are:
- Insufficient sleep
- Extended work hours on the forklift
- Periods of stress or anxiety
- Uncomfortable riding surfaces
- Insufficient ergonomics
Some of the most common signs of forklift driver fatigue include:
- Reduced hand-eye coordination
- Muscle soreness or weakness
- Memory loss
- Trouble concentrating
How Does Forklift Driver Fatigue Affect Worker Safety?
Forklift driver fatigue is not something that can be necessarily “measured” but studies show that it does negatively impact certain areas of work. Some of the most dangerous symptoms included reduced decision making ability, communication skills, and less attentiveness.
For example, If an employee is experiencing any of the previously stated symptoms, and important instructions are passed on to the employee regarding where a stock pallet must be transferred too, the employee may not be concentrating and put the pallet in an obstructing place. Clearly, in the event of a fire, having a pallet in an obstructing place can prevent employees from escaping the premises consequently, creating a safety hazard on the rest of the workplace. For this reason alone, being aware and identifying workplace fatigue should be of a high priority for warehousing and transportation workers as well as business managers within this industry.
What can I do to help Reduce Workplace Fatigue?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one definitive answer for this question but again, communication is definitely key. Talking to your workers to make them aware of workplace fatigue as well as operating together to determine what factor could potentially be affecting them the most.
If one of the determinants to workplace fatigue happens to be the noise in the working environment, incorporating headphones that help block out some of the surrounding sounds will help.
On the topic of headphones, noise cancelling headphones may seem a perfect item to reduce noise in the workplace however, depending on the job of the operator, it is generally not advised as again, in the event of a fire or where emergency sirens are initiated, employees won’t be able to hear the warnings and put themselves at risk. Of course, this is down to the discretion of the employer who may allow or reject noise cancelling headphones but generally it is not encouraged.
If the variable towards workplace fatigue happens to be lack of sleep, try advising your employees to adjust their sleeping schedule so that they are able to get the rest they need. Alternatively, if you are a forklift operator, seek advice from your manager who will be more than happy to help and advise a suitable sleeping pattern for you to adhere to so that you can perform your job to the best of your ability without imposing risk to other employees around the workplace.
It is also important to note that the body is hardwired to sleep at night naturally and when that is disturbed by work, it tends to grind workers down. Therefore, it is imperative that communication on sleeping patterns is to be addressed to all employees for their own safety.
A final point to acknowledge in this blog article is the use of extended breaks. Extended breaks are definitely the easiest method to help combat workplace fatigue. There are laws in place that regulate the amount, frequency, and duration of breaks in the workplace, so you must adhere to those or risk getting fined and increase workplace hazards. But if you know your employees are running out of energy, give them an extra break when necessary.
In a fast-paced, physical environment, safety is paramount and a tired worker will be less focused on what they are doing. For example, forklift drivers must follow safety pointers when carrying a heavy load over rough terrain or even driving a forklift on the road. If the drivers are fatigued, they won’t have the focus to make sure they don’t drop and damage the load, crash the forklift, and hurt themselves or others.
Ultimately, giving them all a break to increase their assertiveness, productivity and to keep high standards of safety should be prioritised and advised where possible.