Shifting the responsibility for feeling tired at work - to your boss - seems a fitting topic for discussion on the first Monday of daylight saving.

Or, you could just get a pair of wide-awake glasses

And if Safe Work Australia has their way, we’ll soon be allowed to expect our employers to manage our fatigue for us.

They’re proposing a new code of practice for employers, expected to be finalised next year that will be admissible in court if an employer is charged with breaching workplace health and safety laws.

It includes a proposed “fatigue checklist” to assist employers in gauging whether their employees have slept enough to manage tasks safely. As well as rosters that accommodate workers’ social lives and training sessions to help people balance “work and personal lifestyle demands”.

What a great idea. It’s about time we put more emphasis on discussing the importance of flexibility and open communication in the workplace, particularly for people who are expected to do shift work.

But while this code of practice is mostly designed for people installing power lines and others doing dangerous tasks, there is no reason why we shouldn’t apply the same principles to office workers.

These proposals place a much needed and far too rare emphasis back of the importance of sleep and physical wellbeing in the workplace. If the goal is to create resilient, dynamic industry then the physical and mental health of employees should be the top of the list. 

The only problem of course, will be getting employers on board. Safe Work Australia’s proposals have already been rubbished by industry chiefs who question the time and difficulty involved in implementing the code of practice.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson has warned it would require employers to “delve into the personal lives of staff”.

While Australian Industry Group representative Mark Goodsell said it would be impossible to prove if worker fatigue was a result of a second job. “People can lie to you and say they weren’t doing anything on the weekend to make them tired,” he said.

Both comments speak volumes about the need for greater trust and better lines of communication when it comes to working conditions in this country.

Planning ahead and being realistic about time pressures, sleep and family commitments should not be seen as such a crazy idea. Ditto talking to your employees about the best way to manage the unique pressures of the modern working environment.

For other ways to stay awake, follow me on Twitter: @lucyjk

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

Most commented


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    • Michael R says:

      11:48am | 08/10/12

      Excellent. Now we can really sing this song and mean it:

      The Unthanks: Monday Morning

      Too soon to be out of me bed,
      Too soon to be back to this bus queue caper,
      Fumbling for change for me picture paper,
      On a Monday morning ...

    • Chris L says:

      11:50am | 08/10/12

      Employers already have a duty of care regarding employee safety, and I’m certain that would include education on managing fatigue for those high risk jobs mentioned.

      As Goodsell pointed out, there’s no way the employer can be further responsible unless they’re allowed to dictate what their employees can do with their free time. Not something I would be in support of.

      Employers must provide the tools and education needed to maintain safety, the rest should be up to the employee.

    • Sam says:

      03:49pm | 08/10/12

      I agree Chris L - if this is brought in, where will the questions end?

      Here are some possible, educative questions from a boss to an employee who keeps making mistakes at work:

      “You look baggy under the eyes, and you’re very tired today. You’ve already made three errors when usually there would be none.
      Tell me, what were you doing last night? Were you out late? Did you drink too much? Did you attend a rock concert in the middle of week? Did you smoke weed? Did you watch too much pornography?”

      Employees need to take responsibility. If they are failing at performing their duties it is up to them to be responsibile for improving their standard.
      If you can’t find the answer to your own problems on google, then your boss probably won’t be able to get through to you.

    • Mitch says:

      12:05pm | 08/10/12

      Any good employer (or at least manager) already does look out for the fatigue levels of their staff. People don’t work well when they’re tired and in some industries this can be down-right dangerous, not just to the worker but their workmates.

    • Richard says:

      12:13pm | 08/10/12

      Do we really need MORE regulations in the workplace to dissuade employers from hiring more workers? Don’t be fooled by the official unemployment figures, rather look to the workplace participation rates: they’re too low. We need more people in jobs which means we need less regulations which prevent companies from wanting to give people jobs.

    • Luke says:

      12:18pm | 08/10/12

      Can the Punch refer us punters to the nearest retailer who stocks the Homer Wide Awake glasses.

    • Kika says:

      01:28pm | 08/10/12

      I think they are called dinosaur glasses or something like that. They were great fun when I was a kid.

    • expat says:

      12:25pm | 08/10/12

      “there is no reason why we shouldn’t apply the same principles to office workers.” - You have got to be kidding, when did office equipment become so dangerous that people were too fatigued to operate it safely?

      More red tape and regulation will just equate to less investment and more jobs going overseas.

    • Bitten says:

      12:38pm | 08/10/12

      Yes, because we all need to be infantilised more by bureaucrats.

      I used to scoff at the supposed ‘adults’ of today who ask inane questions like “How am I supposed to raise a child?” and “How did our parents and grandparents ever manage to do things like pay mortgages and walk upright and just do their jobs?” Now of course I realise that these pathetic questions from the ‘adults’ of today are absolutely genuine: Australians are infants, genuinely bewildered by the realities of adulthood and the expectations that they, themselves, must manage their individual responsibilities. We have succeeded in creating a generation of children who have masqueraded into adulthood with no understanding of personal accountability or responsibility because we have absolved them from it and passed it on to external agencies: employers, government departments etc.

      This is just the next step.

    • Helt says:

      01:35pm | 08/10/12

      Don I think most adults can handle themselves ok but sometimes shift workers cop it pretty rough. I used to work security where I would work 1130 pm to 7 am at a site about an hour drive away. Every once in a my bosses would phone and say someone is sick and I would be asked to do an afternoon shift 230pm to 8 pm then do my night shift. This happened to me a few times and then it became the norm every Thursday Friday and Saturday.  I have to say that at the end of the drive home at 8 am I couldnt remember half the drive home. I notified my bosses that I couldnt keep it up and they treated me like a leper because I didnt want to put in the hours required.  Im sure if I had an accident driving home from work they would have wiped their hands clean of any responsibility. I ended up quitting that job leaving them out of pocket having to train someone new and it could have been avoided with proper management techiques.

      Im sure back in your grandparents day they went to work and when they finished they had dinner a night cap and went to bed they werent digitally connected to work 24/7 like we are and they we much more able to plan thier lives around work than the people of today are

    • Bitten says:

      01:56pm | 08/10/12

      Reply to Don, me thinks? Click the reply button below a post if you want to respond to it wink

    • Achmed says:

      05:00pm | 08/10/12


      There’s a little thing called an off button.  You dont have to connected 24/7.

      I spent 20 years working shifts, 8 weeks of nights, 8 weeks of afternoons then 8 weeks of days.  One particular periodn in 1988 I spent 6 months working dayshift/afternoon shift or afternoon shift/night shift…made me a s**tload.

      There was workers comp case in NSW where the employer was found liable after havign one of their staff work 16 hours and they crashed the car on the way home.  Union fought and won the case.

      @Bitten - couldn’t agree more

    • Don says:

      12:39pm | 08/10/12

      Excellent - when do they start on the doctors? Who hasn’t heard first hand the ridiculous shifts that they are expected to work and brag about it as a right of passage. A truckie goes an hour over his allocated drive time and he gets nailed to a wall. A doctor works a 24 hour shift and he is a champ. All good yeah?

    • Shane says:

      04:42pm | 08/10/12

      Nope. Junior doctors have to work ridiculous shifts and do it without complaint or they can kiss goodbye to getting on a good specialty training program. And 24 hours is nothing… shifts can run up to 72 hours. They do manage to get an hour or two here and there, but its not enough to fight fatigue, just enough to keep them on their feet in a zombie-like way. I remember some years back there was a bit of action taken in regard to these shifts, and the junior drs were told by their employer “Sign off after 14 hours and continue to work the rest of your rostered hours”.

    • KH says:

      01:41pm | 08/10/12

      Seriously, people need to take responsibiltity for their own actions.  Who would want to be an employer if you could be sued because Joe Dumbass didn’t get enough sleep because he went out last night, and ran someone over in his forklift today?  Or Debby Dumbass gives a patient a massive overdose and kills them because she was out partying on the weekend and pulled an all nighter and misread the dose?  What, now they have to hire someone to go around asking people how much they slept in the last 24 hours?  What if the employee lies because they don’t get paid if they don’t work that day?  Who is responsible then? 

      I still live in hope that one day, personal responsibility will be the expectation, not the exception.

    • Kate says:

      05:38pm | 08/10/12

      I think that after employees hire someone to go around asking if employees how much they slept in the last 24hrs, they should have to hire a personal investigator to verify these claims, if they were lying they will need to hire a nanny to supervise the poorly raised employee so as to curb the behaviour and refer to a psychologist to help the employee live a more fulfilling and productive life. RIDICULOUS.  Where is this all leading toward; employers will be required to breastfeed their employees. lol

    • Loxy says:

      01:42pm | 08/10/12

      The employee is the one best placed to know whether they had a late night, didn’t sleep well etc and are simply too tired to do their job properly. Trying to shift this responsibility to employers (who have no control over what an employee does in their personal time) simply won’t work. Most managers and businesses don’t have the time to ask each of their employees questions every morning on their quality of sleep and why should they have to? It’s up to an employee to ensure they get sufficient sleep to do the job they were hired to do or talk to their manager if they don’t feel up to a job.

    • Tator says:

      03:25pm | 08/10/12

      Having worked in a shift work environment and knowing of a case where my employer was found responsible for an accident caused by fatigue (an extreme case where a member who was on nightshift was recalled to duty for a court case and had an accident on the way home), some form of fatigue management is essential by employers.  My employer reacted by implementing policies which directed managers to ensure members who worked excessively long shifts due to overtime (12 hours or more) are given a lift home if available or a cabcharge voucher.  Where I currently work, we have strict fatigue management guidelines due to the high risk nature of our job as we spend up to twelve hours a day conducting these high risk activities and take mandated breaks during the day.

    • Justme says:

      05:01pm | 08/10/12

      That’s fine when the fatigue, as in your examples, is caused by work, ie the employer is responsible. But what if the apprentice partied a bit hard last night? Can the employer send them home? And who pays? Not just pays for the trip home, but the lost hours? Does the employer stump up wages for a staff members overindulgence and thrn potentially have to pay someone else to cover for them? Or does the staff member use sick leave? What if the staff member thinks they are ok to work but he employer disagrees?

    • subotic's eyes are wide shut says:

      03:39pm | 08/10/12

      Is it Monday already?

      Damn, I missed it again…..

    • Chris Erwin says:

      03:55pm | 08/10/12

      When the WHS laws first started to roll out in force in the nineties, who could have dreamed that within t twenty years this would be the result.It has become a religion and the high priests in Canberra would be constantly trying to justify their pathetic jobs by adding to it , one step at a time until we end up with this ridiculous absurd mess of an ideaThe very idea that a job might intrude on your social life , how inconvenient, how rude.Is this how we are going to compete in an international economy. Is a work ethic becoming unfashionable or is work itself the problem, lets abolish that and all go on the dole(another fantastic character building idea)

    • Achmed says:

      04:51pm | 08/10/12

      Having read the list yesterday I was appalled that anyone could think of this.  These people have to much time on their hands and need to spend sometime in the real work places.
      How could an employer keep a check on an employees sleep patterns at home?
      Or their driving on the way home?  Or if they have a headache or if they are daydreaming?

    • Andrew Leembruggen says:

      04:54pm | 08/10/12

      This is the next logical step in the bureaucratic evolution of the nanny state.  The next logical step is to give employees three strikes for being too tired.

    • FZR560 says:

      05:22pm | 08/10/12

      My employer has a fatigue management system in place but both new and old employees are convinced that the system increases fatigue, rather than reduce it. Yet another example of theory not reflecting reality. There is evidence that the effects of fatigue are similar to alcohol but it seems to me that management is happy to hide behind their FMS and hope for the best.


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