Fatigue isn’t some trendy buzzword: it’s a very real, serious medical condition. It can have a variety of causes, but ultimately the result is the same – being too tired, inattentive and weak to safely complete the job at hand. As a contractor, you’re at risk of fatigue simply because of the physically demanding nature of the job. Your risk increases with exposure to extreme job sites and exposure to hazardous materials sometimes used for your work. Fatigue isn’t to be taken lightly, so take these five facts to heart to lessen your chances of dealing with this debilitating and frustrating ailment.
1. Keep Yourself in Top Shape
Your body is the most valuable tool you have – yes, even more valuable than that sweet work truck you just laid out big bucks for. Treat it as such. Eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep and stay hydrated to lessen your chances of encountering fatigue on the job. Try to lessen your stress load and, if possible, avoid excess amounts of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other chemical toxins. Your body will thank you and your performance will stay better than it otherwise would.
2. Don’t Ignore your Body’s Needs
Do you routinely power through aches and pains? You’re setting yourself up for a medical disaster and increasing your chances of fatigue. Don’t do it! Instead, listen to the signals your body is giving you. If you’re hungry, take your lunch break a little early. If you need to rest for a minute, do it. Ongoing or chronic fatigue can be a sign of an underlying deficiency or medical issue, so if just meeting your body’s needs and taking extra care doesn’t help, enlist the help of your doctor or another qualified medical care provider to get to the bottom of it.
3. Exercise Caution in Extremes
Think about the last time you worked in a non-air-conditioned attic in summer. Or an unheated crawl space in winter. Physical exertion in extreme climates and temperatures increases your risk of fatigue. You might zone out, you could even pass out. Take frequent breaks when your jobsite is at either end of the thermometer and drink plenty of water. If necessary, postpone the job until a warmer or cooler day instead of rushing to finish in hazardous weather. Remember, though, it’s not just heat or cold that can create an extreme work environment: humidity also plays a part. Mitigate the climate whenever possible.
4. Keep Your Mind Alert
Unlike, say, a sprained wrist, fatigue is a physical problem with a very obvious mental aspect to it. Monotonous activities, like driving nails, for example, can increase your risk of fatigue. Taking frequent breaks helps you refocus, but so does finding ways to keep your mind active (but not distracted) while on the job. Whether it’s humming, glancing around every few repetitions or even having an inconsequential conversation with another crew member, keeping your mind active whilst performing monotonous work helps to minimize fatigue and cuts down on accidents and careless mistakes related to fatigue.
5. Fatigue is Not a Failure
An encounter with fatigue can leave you feeling pretty shoddy about yourself. Perhaps you feel you were slacking or weren’t using the fantastic work ethic you know you have. Fatigue isn’t a character flaw: it’s a sign that something is off with your body. Try not to stress or beat yourself up about having a day where you had to take it easy to avoid fatigue and vow to do better going forward. Stress decreases your ability to avoid fatigue, so you’re doing yourself no favor by dwelling on it.
Fatigue and You
Fatigue can feel like you’re losing your mind. It can also feel like you’re working underwater. It’s a physical ailment with a mental component. While fatigue can sometimes be avoided by keeping yourself in prime condition and can occasionally be remedied with rest and time off, sometimes it signals that there’s a more serious health problem in your life. Fatigue is a major hazard on the jobsite, so do your best to prevent it and remedy it as soon as possible, not just for yourself, but for your crew members, as well.