Fatigue Syndrome and Risk Management System for Malaysian Workers
Malaysia is a multi-religious and multi ethnic country with 33 million populations. Around 68.7% of its total population represent the country’s major labour workforce industry. That means, more than half of its population are adult workers who contribute to the country’s gross income generation and revenues. In fact, human resource still stands as a main resource of income and financial revenue for the country. Considering the major and significant contribution of human resource to the country, it is no doubt that the welfare and needs of this specific group of population should be given adequate and great concern by the respected stakeholders, especially by the related government agencies, human resource department, profit making employers and their employees, as well as by the labour group organizations.
When it comes to Islamic understanding of work, Muslims are always being taught that work is part of ibadah and sacred duty as long it is done with the intention of obtaining God’s pleasure and promote goodness, avoid harm and bad deeds. Doing good jobs should always be part of a Muslim’s mind-set and behaviour. Exemplifying good practices in any organization can be shown by respecting and treating other co-workers with good treatment and always without any discrimination. It is accepted that unhelpful and discriminated treatment in the work place setting is considered a hazard that could likely lead to fatigue syndrome among workers.
Literally, fatigue is a general term that is always used to describe feeling of tiredness and exhaustion. Operationally, fatigue and tiredness represent a specific condition of low energy and lethargy related to having little amount of, or depleted physical and body resources, for a specific period of time. Generally it is related to low level of energy after having long hour energy consumption or due to discrete strenuous activities. Although tiredness and fatigue are used interchangeably to describe a condition, the two terms somehow technically and operationally have very different and specific definition attached to them.
It is so true that tiredness and fatigue are by-products of an activity, in contrast, fatigue is defined as a more disabling and incapacitating chronic medical condition and rather representing a medical and psychological phenomenon. As a medical condition, fatigue may result from co-existing medical conditions, auto immune system diseases, or a complication of certain drug interactions. One of this example is, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, fatigue has been confirmed as a complication of the disease long after someone inflicted has recovered from the illness. Meanwhile, psychologically, it may occur as a pathological reaction to mental and physical stress and illness that finally induces detrimental mind-body health implications and reactions. In this context, one of the examples is burn-out syndrome that has been implicated as one of the contributing factors in chronic fatigue.
In a modern world like today, work and fatigue go hand in hand. In fact, fatigue is a significant problem in modern industry as workers are working in a very competitive and demanding job environment, getting not enough rest that results in accumulative sleep debts, or having multiple jobs or doing long hours of multi-tasking job demanding activities, while intriguing and contemplating with concurrent psychosocial workplace hazards. In the long run, this hampers individual functioning, as it affects physically so badly, disrupting one’s circadian biologic clock and body rhythm as getting enough sleep and rest is considered no more acceptable or more or less immoral, and no more a priority in this modern life society. In the end, all of these conditions bring negative implications, to the workers themselves, their family, and to the company productivities, that later on induce workplace health, safety issues and concerns.
In general, fatigue is a risk factor for any individual worker at all levels of any organization without one realizing it. However, the impact it poses may bring the company and organization down, exacerbates more communication breakdown and increasing relationship fall-outs. It will leave everyone feeling confused on what has happened. By this time, it is already too late. Everyone will start blaming each other which finally leaves them in despair and guilt. The worst thing is the economic impact due to productivity loss, absenteeism, or presenteeism, and superfluous health benefit reimbursements that occur as a result of chronic fatigue.
The most crippling and disabling signs of someone affected by this condition could be described as having numbers of musculoskeletal and joint pain and discomfort, mental and physical stress, having burnout syndrome with demotivated feeling of professional incompetence, bad quality of performance and delivering services, dropouts and long term indefinite sickness absence, having feeling of emotionally and socially alienated and accidents.
It is a matter of fact that fatigue syndrome has been recognized as a real medical problem and illness that exists among workers as early as in 1969 by World Health Organization. However, illness recognition, prevention and interventions are always among the major hindering issues faced by organizations and even worst this condition is always misperceived and misconstrued as attitude or disciplinary issues. In the end, the company may lose a number of productivity and unnecessary health compensation for issues that could have been recognized and saved in the first place. Lack of skilled and trained personnel, scarcity of knowledge and inadequate information in handling related health and safety issues by the organization are among the most identifiable contributing factors. Based on the cost effectiveness model of management standard in place, serious involvement by the company is therefore warranted as the saying goes prevention is better than cure.