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Guide to manage fatigue and shift work released

13 December 2007

Guide to manage fatigue and shift work released

A new guide to help employers manage shift work and the sometimes dangerous effects of fatigue in the workplace is out today, Labour Minister Trevor Mallard said.

"I urge employers and employees working in areas where shift work is common to check out this new guide. Shift work is one of the leading causes of fatigue, which can affect productivity and workers' health. Sadly, it's also is a well known cause of workplace injuries and fatalities.

"There is clear evidence that working cumulative shifts outside of normal daytime hours leads to increased fatigue, reduced concentration, loss of productivity and risk of error and injury.

"Shift workers can experience significant fatigue – but the good news is that there are simple strategies to manage it, and it is possible to recover from fatigue with sufficient sleep.

"This guide aims to give employers a greater understanding of fatigue and recovery and suggests simple, common sense strategies to manage shift work successfully."

Ideas in the guide include consulting with employees over rosters and their impacts, allowing enough recovery time between shifts, rotating shifts, training and educating staff about fatigue management, rest breaks, providing good supervision of shifts and identifying risks.

"Fatigue has been linked to serious work place accidents involving machinery, transportation, falls from heights and animal handling. This guide is particularly relevant to the manufacturing, construction, health and agriculture sectors.

"Forestry is another industry where people work long hard physical days and often travel some distance to and from the work site. When they are tired this can lead to fatalities," Trevor Mallard said.

The full guide Managing shift work to minimise workplace fatigue, A guide for employers and a shorter guide for small businesses are available from

The guide was prepared by Department of Labour staff with expert advice from:
Philippa Gander, Director, Sleep Wake Research Centre, Massey University, Wellington; Adam Fletcher, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Sleep Research University of South Australia, Adelaide; Warrant Bolger, Logistics Manager, BP Oil, New Zealand and Howard Anderson, Operations Specialist, Airways New Zealand.


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