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Research Summaries

Fatigue management for public safety personnel

Keywords: Public Safety Personnel (PSP), Sleep

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Why was the study done?

Public safety personnel (PSP) are often exposed to physical and psychological stressors, which can increase their fatigue levels. Fatigue has been linked to the development of both physical injury and performance detriments.

Public safety organizations have been working on fatigue-reducing policies, standards, guidelines, and programs to help reduce the impact of fatigue on their members. This increase in concern over fatigue has led to calls for the development of a national standard on fatigue risk management for PSP.

The current study looks at the existing literature on fatigue in PSP to explore links between risk factors, fatigue, and health outcomes.

What was done in the study?

A scoping review of all existing literature from 1990-May 2019 was completed to gather research on fatigue in police, paramedics/EMS, and firefighters. The researchers found 403 studies that looked at the role of fatigue among these three PSP groups.

What did we find out?

  • Based on the research, fatigue was grouped into five categories: cognitive, physical, burnout, emotional, and perceptual.
  • For police and EMS/paramedics, organizational and personal/social/cultural concerns were the primary reasons for cognitive fatigue.
  • For police and firefighters, musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, and acute injuries were the primary reasons for physical fatigue.
  • In all three PSP groups, burnout, cognitive, and physical fatigue were associated with poor health and work performance.
  • Based on the research, cognitive fatigue was most frequently linked with physical health, mental health, and work performance.
  • The most significant risk factors for cognitive fatigue are organizational factors (e.g., shift work, shift patterns, and work stress), environment, and personal capacity.

Where do we go from here?

The literature shows a complex relationship between fatigue and PSP health. When developing a national standard on fatigue risk management, many risk factors will have to be incorporated into the design. It will also be essential to have an extensive consultation with PSP frontline and leadership to develop any standard. Current research provides good evidence for proactive ways to reduce fatigue in PSP.

The original wording of the study was changed and condensed for the current research summary.


Original Study

Yung, M., Du, B., Gruber, J., & Yazdani, A. (2021). Developing a Canadian fatigue risk management standard for first responders: Defining the scope. Safety Science, 134.

Summary prepared by Kossick, E.  Edited & reviewed by Barootes, B. & Yung, M.

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