Interim NIOSH Training for Emergency Responders: Reducing Risks Associated with Long Work Hours

Identify Responder Fatigue

Know the signs and symptoms.

  • Physical signs: yawning; drooping eyelids; eye-rubbing; head dropping; involuntarily falling asleep for a few seconds or longer; slow reaction time, slurred speech, or reduced coordination; blank stare caused by sudden episode of sleep a few seconds long
  • Mental signs: difficulty concentrating, attention lapses, difficulty remembering, less able to learn new facts or motor skills; fatigued or sleepy at inappropriate times; hallucinations
  • Emotional signs: more quiet or withdrawn than usual; lack of energy; lack of motivation, “do not care” attitude; inappropriate emotions such as giggling or laughing in serious situations; irritability, moodiness, anxiety, or confusion
  • Thinking: decreased divergent thinking, innovation, and insight; fixation on ineffective solutions, inability to recognize better alternatives; flawed logic; poor judgment; impaired moral judgment; essential activities neglected as awareness of surroundings and circumstances decreases (may misjudge how much time has passed or may not recognize signs that a situation is deteriorating); lack of awareness of poor performance; poorer risk assessment, increased risk-taking behaviors (drinking, inappropriate drug use, speeding while driving, not using seat-belts, unprotected promiscuity)
  • Poor communication: misinterpreting written or oral communication; making inappropriate comments

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Page last reviewed: April 1, 2020