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CRC develops workplace safety system to manage Covid-19 risks

AlertSafe software provides support for staff who have had to switch to working from home

A fatigue management system that can identify excessive work demands and areas of potential stress for staff working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic has been developed by a national workplace safety research group.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity has developed the monitoring system in collaboration with Melbourne software company Opturion.

“Workplace conditions are changing rapidly to adapt to the anticipated prolonged impact of Covid-19, requiring new approaches to manage fatigue-related risks,” a CRC statement says.

“For healthcare and other essential service providers, fatigue risks will be exacerbated by the concurrent impact of extreme workloads, stress and reduced staff availability due to illness, quarantine or carer duties.”

The CRC says people who have had to switch to working at home during Covid-19 lockdowns are facing significant challenges from isolation, lack of support, and conflicts between work and family responsibilities.

“Employees are experiencing, and will continue to experience, fatigue. We need to prepare them and do everything possible to minimise the adverse consequences on the health and safety of workers and the broader community, and to reduce the likelihood of staff burnout.”

The AlertSafe software uses workplace data to analyse potential stress that could affect mental health, safety and work performance. It can automatically generate flexible rosters, assign shift changes and analyse workload pressure and fatigue risk caused by changes related to Covid-19.

“In order to respond to rapidly changing workplace conditions, fatigue management systems must adapt to address new and evolving risks,” the CRC says.

Safe Work Australia, a federal agency that develops workplace safety policies and regulations, has published a statement outlining the physical and mental health risks of stress and fatigue that can be caused by workplace changes linked to Covid-19 restrictions.

“This is a stressful time for all Australians, and employers must do what they can to reduce the psychological risks to workers and others at the workplace,” the statement says.

“A psychosocial hazard is anything in the design or management of work that causes stress. Stress is the reaction a person has when we perceive the demands of their work exceed their ability or resources to cope. Work-related stress if prolonged or severe can cause both psychological and physical injury.”