The identification and evaluation of the causes of fatigue in the ferrochrome smelting environment
Fatigue is a concept that has been researched extensively and is a complex phenomenon that leads to numerous problems for both the individual as well as the organisation. According to the philosopher Johnson (1825:327) “The highest pleasure which nature has indulged to sensitive perception is that of rest after fatigue”. Fatigue is the body's response to sleep loss or prolonged physical or mental exertion. Fatigue is an unsafe condition in the workplace and can lead to sick leave, impaired memory, poor judgement, slow problem solving, reduced visual perception and reduced capacity for interpersonal communication. There has been an increased drive worldwide to manage fatigue through Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS). FRMS became internationally accepted between 2008 and 2010 after gaining sufficient critical mass of industry, government and academic influencers. Lately the need to manage fatigue has also been recognised in South Africa. In December 2014 the South African Government published a Guideline for the implementation of a Mandatory code of practice for risk based fatigue management at mines. Reducing the levels of fatigue can have huge advantages for both organisations and their employees. Since many causes of fatigue are in control of the individual, fatigue management should be a shared responsibility between the organisation and its employees. Literature recommends that a FRMS should be data driven, which necessitates the need for research. Although there is an abundance of research on fatigue, there is little research available within the South African mining industry. The purpose of this study was to identify from literature the relevant variables that the company should be concerned about when managing fatigue as well as the defences that are available to manage fatigue. Participants in the research included 289 employees who worked at the three Furnace Production departments at Glencore's Wonderkop Smelter as well as Almar, an internal transportation contractor. Data was gathered by means of a self-report questionnaire and an instrument that measured the level of fatigue. It was empirically identified which variables contributed the most to fatigue at Glencore's Wonderkop Smelter. The only variable that showed a statistical relationship with fatigue was sleep. The effect of sleep on fatigue is significant but not of practical significance.