Home|Audio Conferences|Waking Up to a Workplace Hazard

Waking Up to a Workplace Hazard: Addressing fatigue and employee health

Thursday, February 14, 2019, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm EST

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Jon Chapnick

Director of Human Resources and Labour Relations
RainCity Housing
Anne Gregory

Legal Counsel
Manitoba Nurses Union


Glenn Landry

Sleep Consultant
Circadian Rhythms and Sleep
Amanda Rogers

Union Counsel
Rogers Law
David Patacairk

Legal Counsel
City of Ottawa


Investigators recently warned that pilot fatigue was a factor in a "near miss" incident in San Francisco that could have resulted in the "worst aviation accident in history." Yet, fatigue remains an under-recognized risk to workplace health and safety. Not only does fatigue contribute to a number of health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, but it is also a significant form of impairment: A worker who has been awake for 21 hours shows impairment similar to someone with a blood alcohol content of 0.08, which is the legal limit for drivers in Canada. In this session, speakers with expertise in work-related fatigue and labour law will provide guidance on limiting work practices that contribute to fatigue and on effectively dealing with fatigue that adversely affects the workplace.

Fatigue Generally

  • How significant is fatigue as a workplace health and safety issue? To what degree is fatigue caused by workplace factors – such as scheduling practices, overtime, long shifts, etc. – and to what degree is it caused by family responsibilities, personal choices regarding sleep, etc.?
  • How is fatigue related to chronic health conditions? What health conditions does fatigue cause and what health conditions cause fatigue?

Reducing the risks of impairment due to fatigue

  • Can fatigue be measured? What are the signs that a worker is impaired by fatigue? Can they be distinguished from signs of impairment due to alcohol or other substances? Does it matter what the cause of the impairment is?
  • At what point should overtime or the length of a shift be considered a health and safety risk? Are shifts of a certain length, for example, 18 or 24 hours, inherently dangerous? Does the risk of fatigue depend on the working conditions in different occupations?
  • Can workers refuse to work overtime or long shifts on the basis that the associated fatigue would constitute a danger under health and safety legislation?
  • What can workplaces do to keep workers alert?

Responding to fatigued workers

  • How should managers or supervisors respond if a worker is nodding off at work? Is a disciplinary response always warranted, or, in certain circumstances, might an employer have an obligation to inquire as to whether an employee's sleepiness at work is due to a disability?
  • How strong must the connection be between an employee's disability and his or her propensity to fall asleep at work in order for the conduct to be considered non-culpable?
  • Is "fatigue" itself, or lack of energy, in the absence of some other medical diagnosis, a disability for the purposes of taking sick leave, obtaining disability benefits, or accommodation? Is that what "chronic fatigue" is – a chronic lack of energy without a clear explanation?
  • Are sleep disorders, such as circadian sleep rhythm disorder, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, etc., disabilities that must be accommodated? What about "shift work sleep disorder?"
  • What constitutes reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities that cause them to be tired at work? Shift changes? Allowances for absences due to over-sleeping? Working from home, so the employee can better manage fatigue/wakefulness?

Additional Information

Valuable, up-to-date materials and case summaries will be available for downloading from our website. Each audio conference is accompanied by a PDF of concise summaries of the cases discussed.

Audio conference MP3 files are available for $260. Those who have purchased the live audio conference may purchase the corresponding downloadable audio MP3 file for the discounted price of $160.

The recorded MP3 file and materials are available for download one business day after the live audio conference. After purchasing, you will receive an e-mail with instructions on how to access and download the audio conference MP3 file and materials by visiting My Account and selecting Order History. For audio file purchases for upcoming audio conferences, once the MP3 file is available through our site, registrants will receive an update e-mail informing them that the links are now ready.

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