Safe Work Australia plans to cut risk for fatigued workers

A new code of practice for employers, which is expected to be finalised next year will require bosses to roster jobs around workers’ social lives and make sure that workers who yawn or daydream are not too tired to perform their work safely.

News Limited reported that the new code of practice includes a proposed “fatigue checklist” to help employers in determining whether workers have had enough sleep to perform their job safely. It has also proposed that employers “eliminate or reduce the need to work extended hours or overtime.”

“If a worker leaves their job tired and exhausted they may be less able to enjoy out of work activities or could be a danger to themselves and others in the community,” says the document.

“Likewise, if a worker arrives at work unfit for duty due to lack of sleep, illness or other condition, they may be less productive or could be a danger to themselves and others in the workplace.

“To avoid any potential conflicts between personal and work demands, controls include (to) consult with workers and design shift rosters that will enable workers to meet both work and personal commitments.”

The code also requires employers to train workers to balance work and personal lifestyle demands.

The code of practice will be admissible in court if an employer is charged with breaching workplace health and safety laws.

In a report by The Australian, the Australian Industry Group’s representative on the Safe Work Australia board, Mark Goodsell, said employers might be held responsible for the fatigue of workers moonlighting in other jobs.

Any boss who pried into a worker’s partying habit would “look like a nark and invade their privacy,” said Mr Goodsell.

“People can lie to you and say they weren’t doing anything on the weekend to make them tired.

“They’ve got no obligation to tell you what they’re doing at home.

“But there is a legal implication that if an employer is accused of breaking the law, the fact you weren’t following the code can be used against you.”

Even unions have expressed their concern over the law saying that the fatigue checklist is “not very helpful.”

“How would a workplace assess such things as ‘reduced immune system function’ or ‘hallucinations’ and ‘headaches’? says Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union in a submission to Safe Work Australia.

A Safe Work Australia spokeswoman said they will revise the code to address concerns.

“Changes aim to reflect recent research findings and outcomes of case law,” said the spokeswoman.

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