Implementing risk management systems

This guidance may help employers to implement an effective risk management system to minimise the risks of work-related fatigue.

Definition of work-related fatigue

Fatigue is an acute and/or ongoing state that leads to physical, mental or emotional exhaustion and prevents people from functioning safely. Working long hours, with intense mental or physical effort, or during some or all of the natural time for sleep, can cause fatigue. All of these have obvious implications for workplace and public safety. Fatigue can also have long-term effects on health.

Ensuring implementation success

Implementing an effective risk management system and ensuring risk management approaches and controls work as intended is not always straightforward.

Although your proposed actions or changes may be appropriate and even necessary, they may require others to change how they do their work, how they work with others and may challenge some fundamental assumptions about what is the 'right' way to work. For example, some people may find it difficult to support risk controls that protect employees if they are concerned about the impact on the public.

It is important to consider how you bring about necessary change, and if the change is large or disruptive enough, you should engage all your stakeholders and make a plan for change. Consider the following areas when planning your approach.

Organisational commitment

Senior management commitment is critical to the success of any significant organisational initiative. Risk management programs require upfront resources (including people, money and time) but, in the long-term, have been shown to provide considerable savings.

Senior leaders should be visible and active in promoting change initiatives. Gaining employee commitment through frequent and open communication is also necessary to successfully change employee attitudes and/or behaviour. You should consider:

  • developing a stakeholder map to identify all stakeholders and understand their needs, for example, clinical staff may have different needs compared to OHS staff
  • conducting an impact analysis to identify who will be impacted and how – use this information to plan how to assist identified individuals or groups to manage change

Consultation and communication

The OHS Act requires consultation between workplace parties (employers, employees and Health and Safety Representatives, if any) in order to control workplace risks to health and safety. When managing the risk of work-related fatigue, input from employees to assist in identifying and addressing risk factors is crucial.

Employers should already be consulting with employees throughout the risk management process and should continue to do so for implementation.

Consulting with employees may help you to:

  • understand their experiences, needs, ideas, and concerns
  • understand what risk control measures are effective
  • encourage promote and encourage workplace adoption of solutions (i.e. risk control measures) that are to be put in place
  • identify if control measures are working
  • Clear communication at all points in the change (before, during and after) is essential for ensuring everyone is on the same page and knows what they need to do.

Effective change management

  • Employers must decide what risk control measures they will use in the workplace to control change management risks that might lead to work-related fatigue.
  • Planning change management and its communication across a workforce can help control risks and helps employers meet their obligation to ensure they provide a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Control measures should target the work environment and focus on job design and working conditions. Risk control measures should address communication before and during a change process, ensuring effective consultation and participation take place and ensuring job roles are revised should any changes occur. Feedback is critical.