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Managing Fatigue

Fatigue is defined as extreme tiredness that results in mental and/or physical exhaustion and can hinder an employee’s ability to perform work safely and effectively. Fatigue in the workplace not only impacts a workers’ mental and physical health, but it can also impact the safety of those around them, as well as their capacity to function. Its side‐effects include decreased performance and productivity and an increase in the potential for errors in judgement, which may result in injuries. 

Per the Department of Labor, long work hours and irregular work shifts are common in our society. Many American workers spend over 40 hours a week at work, and almost 15 million work full time on evening, night, rotating, or other irregular shifts. Work schedules like these may cause worker fatigue.

Shift workers may be scheduled for days, evenings, nights and/or on a rotating or on-call basis. They may work extended shifts (more than 8 hours long), rotating or irregular shifts, or consecutive shifts resulting in more than the typical 40-hour workweek. Long work hours may increase the risk of injuries and accidents and contribute to poor health and worker fatigue. Studies show that long work hours can increase stress, poor eating habits, lack of physical activity, and illness. It is important to recognize worker fatigue symptoms and its potential impact on each worker’s safety and health and on the safety of co-workers.

Four Ways to Manage Fatigue

  1. Stretch and Move

If you are at a guardhouse and unable to leave, find ways to move your body and keep blood flowing. Move your feet in circles and stomp them on the ground. Drum your hands on your thighs. Roll your shoulders and lift your arms up and down. Walk up and down stairs or around the building on breaks.

2. Exercise Your Mind

During downtime, keep your mind active to stave off sleep. Try actively using all your senses while you work. Focus on what you taste, notice what you can smell, and listen intently to all the sounds in your environment. Using your senses this way helps keep your brain active.

3. Stay Hydrated

Drinking soda and coffee can cause your energy to crash and make you abandon your post for frequent bathroom breaks. Drink water instead to keep yourself hydrated and alert. If you need coffee to stay awake, go ahead and indulge in moderation; just try to avoid caffeine in the last few hours of your shift so you can sleep when you are done. 

4. Create Your Own Accountability

 Set 10-minute alarms on your phone or install an app designed to keep you awake. These apps offer different ways to help you fight sleep, such as making noises at random intervals. If there are other officers on duty nearby, exchange messages every so often to help each other stay alert or ask a friend who is awake while working to send you periodic check-in messages.


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Long Work Hours, Extended or Irregular Shifts, and Worker ….