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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X


THERON, W.J.  and  VAN HEERDEN, G.M.J.. Fatigue knowledge - a new lever in safety management. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2011, vol.111, n.1, pp.1-10. ISSN 2411-9717.

The purpose of the paper is to give an introduction to the concept of fatigue and its causes in the mining industry. By knowing the fundamental role it plays, together with its dynamics, can positively contribute to a mine's safety management system. The difference between physical and psychological fatigue will be addressed with a possible range of causes that could trigger fatigue. There are two main sources of fatigue: firstly, work-related fatigue which is associated with activities at the workplace; and secondly non-workrelated fatigue. The shared responsibility between the employer and employee is also discussed as it involves factors that occur both in and outside the workplace. Employers have the responsibility to manage fatigue through using a risk management approach. Employees have the responsibility to ensure they get enough sleep, take sufficient and regular nutrition, are healthy and physically fit and come to work fresh and alert. The impact of the implementation of a fatigue management plan and procedures has the potential to eliminate employee fatigue or its causes, reduce the likelihood of fatigue occurring in the workplace, and counteract the effects of fatigue when it occurs. Factors considered when implementing a fatigue management system include: extended hours of work, shift work, time of day and work design. Fatigue is one of the major role players (either causal or contributory) when it comes to causes of fatalities in the mining industry. Our main challenge in identifying whether fatigue played a role is the fact that it cannot be tested in post-mortems like drug or alcohol abuse. It is an aspect worth understanding and getting an organization sensitive to managing it properly to benefit both organizational as well as employee needs.

Keywords : Signs of fatigue: Causes of fatigue; circadian rhythms; the fatigue equation; fatigue management; fatigue affecting safety; fatigue fighting tips; lifestyle suggestions.

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