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 Effects of fatigue - especially night time working


Working hours and night working at events and conferences is a significant issue. Quite clearly we at The Safety Organisation cannot be omni-present so it would be unfair of us to say that all events, including exhibitions and conferences use staff who are over tired or experiencing the effects of very irregular and long hours. However, regardless of time of day, this is a regular feature of what we do see. This includes new staff on site, having just driven considerable distances, directly from their last job. Of course we strenuously advise employers and organisers of what we see and keep a record on our safety advisor log of our observations and actions. The standard response is always (depending upon perspective), 'it is always like this', 'the company won't send any more staff', 'we don't have the budget'...... and so on. That presents us then with the dilemma of either leaving site because the situation is not tolerable or staying because without us 'watching their backs', an incident is much more likely.

Quite apart from legislation which relates to working hours, travel etc it is a very simple decision to make as to whether working hours are safe for any individual. The law requires that ALL WORK SHOULD BE RISK ASSESSED. It does not specify what aspects of work do or don't apply because it includes all aspects of work. Therefore a person's ability to work safely; their competence due to fatigue must also be considered. In addition, duties of care for anyone affected by this factor apply, as does the Occupiers Liability Act because the lessended ability to work safely might affect others on the premises.

Remember also. People must also travel back to their homes or hotels. Consider the effects of an over-tired person when driving or crossing the road. Would you ask a person to drive or cross the road when under the influence of drink or drugs. Clearly not. The effects of fatigue are very similar; poor judgement, slow reaction times, micro-sleep etc.

Working hours and fatigue must be considered at the planning phase of an event. If the client funding operations does not have sufficient budget to ensure that provision is made for rest periods, a hard and conscience based decision might need to be made. It is accepted that this might be difficult because of financial implications of turning down business but in the cold light of day, death, trauma, serious injury, prosecution, bad publicity, crippling fines, compensation or loss of future business due to bad reputation might be the alternative.

On a lighter and practical note, please remember to include issues such as;

  • welfare
  • first aid cover
  • emergency plans
  • sufficient, suitable and properly adjusted lighting (no glares or dark patches)
  • first aid
  • security - especially if likely to be exposed night time users of towns and cities
  • support and contact details
  • and of course, suitable management and safety support (floor manager)

For more details, we recommend having a good read at the g-Guide for exhibitions and conferenes and have it at hand to refer to. Occasionally you will need to follow the advice within the document to other sources such as legislation and approved codes of practice.


For further advice for assistance or training from The Safety Organisation our contact details are at the top right corner of all pages of our web site.

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