Does a loss of shift due to fatigue = a Lost Time Injury?

A SafetyAtWorkBlog reader emailed me this question:

“does a loss of shift due to fatigue equal a Lost Time Injury?”

My standard response is “why not?”

This type of LTI (Lost Time Injury) issue is one that will become increasingly common as the occupational health and safety (OHS) prominence of wellness and work-related psychological health and safety ramps up with the support of OHS regulators and authorities such as WorkSafe and Safe Work Australia.  The challenge was touched on in a recent SafetyAtWorkBlog article about Human Resources records.

It is quite possible for a health professional to issue a “sick note” listing absence from work due to “exhaustion” or “stress”, even though this is not a common occurrence.  Sick notes may say something like

“… has a medical condition and will be unfit for work from XX to XX date.”

That medical condition could be anything including mental ill-health, or influenza or hundreds of other conditions.  How is the OHS professional and employer to reduce work-related risks if they are not told of the possible cause of the illness?

Returning to the question above, how does the OHS person address a work-related absenteeism that, in the past, may have rested within HR’s employee records but now is expected, by the OHS regulators, to be investigated?

For those companies undertaking government construction contracts, there are often contractual penalties and obligations related to any LTIs related to the project.  You may need to investigate and report on an LTI to the (government) client, in order to explain why a penalty should not apply.  In the new world of work health and safety, what do you do if that LTI is related to psychological ill-health?

The reality is that, most likely, the incident report will be “massaged” to a lower injury category so that going to the Headmaster’s office is avoided.  It makes the contractor’s OHS job easier, but continues to avoid the issue of work-related psychological health and safety and whether our OHS reporting and management structures are able to include this type of injury.

Every company will need to address this challenge, and soon.

Kevin Jones

Categories absenteeism, construction, fatigue, health, mental-health, OHS, psychosocial, safety, SafeWork, stress, wellness, WorkSafe

1 thought on “Does a loss of shift due to fatigue = a Lost Time Injury?”

  1. An immediate issue I see with this approach would be proving that work, or work activity, led to the fatigue, and that the fatigue is not a result of other external influence(s). I feel that, in today’s climate – conceding that things may change in the future – you would be drawing a very long bow to link fatigue to lost time, in the purest sense. At the very least it would certainly be an interesting challenge to pretty much every safety manager I have ever talked to who carries a truly professional interest in managing their statistical trace.

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