November 2019 | Fruit & Vegetable News magazine

Working in horticulture is characterised by hard work with long days to match. It’s not uncommon for workers to put in 12+ hour days, seven days a week in peak harvest times. While the extra pay at the end of the week is tempting, the risk of fatigue is extremely high. Fatigue is defined as mental and/or physical exhaustion that reduces workers’ ability to perform work safely.  

Workers who are fatigued: 

  • Are more likely to make mistakes 
  • Have difficulty making judgement calls 
  • Have trouble managing their emotional reactions 
  • Are more likely to injure themselves or others 

Employers who don’t properly manage their workers’ fatigue are not only jeopardising the safety of their workers, but also possibly increasing their cost of production through lower productivity, more mistakes and workers compensation liability.  

To ensure workers are safe and productive, the Fair Farms Standard requires that: 

  • Where workers work additional hours, they should not work more than 60 hours in any seven-day period. 
  • In exceptional circumstances (including unexpected production peaks, accidents or emergencies), workers can work more than 60 hours, but never more than 80 hours in a week. 
  • Workers are not to work more than 18 hours in a single day under any circumstances.  
  • Workers should receive at least one day off in every seven-day period, or two days off in every 14-day period. 
  • Employers put appropriate safeguards in place to manage the risk of fatigue for their workers.  

How to implement 

Every grower knows that when your produce is ready, it must be picked and packed. No exceptions. So how do you manage and prevent fatigue? The first step is to identify what factor may cause fatigue at your workplace. This might include long hours, not enough days off, early morning starts, late finishes and hard physical labour. For each of the factors you identify, implement a control measure that mitigates the risk for fatigue.  

For example: 

  • Split long shifts into shorter shifts 
  • Instead of working seven days per week, have a rolling five-day roster with different workers, allowing everyone to have time off 
  • Rotate staff through different tasks every few hours  
  • Make sure workers have regular breaks with access to drinking water. 

RESOURCE TIP: Safe Work Australia – Fatigue