Like any heavy vehicle or piece of equipment, a motor grader can cause serious injuries and even fatalities if not operated safely.

A common underlying cause of workplace accidents – one that’s easy to underestimate – is operator fatigue.

Why take fatigue seriously?

Fatigue is caused by extended mental and/or physical exhaustion. It can impair the functioning of both the mind and body, making it difficult to stay alert and to make quick, appropriate decisions.

Fatigue may impair hand-eye coordination, affect concentration and interfere with logical reasoning. It can also cause individuals to fall asleep on the job.

This can put operators, other people in the vicinity and expensive equipment at risk.

Even over a reasonably short shift, operating a motor grader typically requires continuous, intense concentration, and this can lead to exhaustion.

How to fight fatigue

Along with prolonged physical or mental exertion, factors that can cause or contribute to fatigue include poor diet, lack of sleep, mental health issues and illness.

If you’re a motor grader operator, making some common-sense changes to your lifestyle can help prevent fatigue from affecting your ability to do your job safely.


Following all the usual guidelines for a healthy diet may make a significant difference to how alert you stay on the job.

  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration can make you sleepy and impair cognitive functioning. Aim to drink roughly 2 litres of water per day.
  • Avoid sugary snacks and energy drinks. Sugar provides an initial boost followed by an energy slump. Rather eat snacks that combine carbohydrates and protein, like mixed fruit and nuts or protein-rich sandwiches.
  • Stagger your caffeine intake. If you find that caffeine helps you stay awake, time your intake to stagger it throughout your shift. For example, opt for a weak caffeinated drink every two hours, instead of a single, very strong coffee before your shift starts.
  • Don’t skip meals. The brain relies on glucose for fuel, and your blood sugar levels are likely to run low if you skip meals. To ensure that you get enough energy, eat a high-carbohydrate breakfast and aim to eat properly at other mealtimes.
  • Quit smoking. Smokers tend to have lower energy levels than non-smokers because the body needs glucose and oxygen to function, and the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke reduces the amount of oxygen available in the blood.
  • Drink less alcohol. Although alcohol may help you get to sleep, you’ll actually sleep less deeply after a few drinks. Another reason to keep your alcohol consumption in check is that even a mild hangover can cause you to feel tired the next day – even if you’ve had a good night’s sleep.

Physical activity

Regular physical activity can help you sleep better, lower your stress levels and boost your energy. The current recommendation is for at least 40 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, three times a week.

If you’re overweight, losing just a few kilograms is likely to improve your energy levels.

Also stretch while on the job. Just 10 minutes of stretching or walking can boost your energy levels and increase blood flow, so make sure you move around during your break.

Sleep quality

It’s not just how much you sleep but the quality of your sleep that affects your energy levels.

  • Get enough sleep. The general recommendation for adults is 7 to 9 hours per night, but this varies between individuals and under different conditions. It’s important to listen to your own body.
  • Make sleep a priority. Light and noise are known to interfere with sleep, so switch off the TV or radio and put your phone on silent before getting into bed.
  • Stick to a sleep routine. Sticking to a fixed sleep schedule can regulate your sleep patterns. Try going to bed at the same time every night and waking at the same time every morning to get your body into the habit of sleeping through the night
  • Avoid sleeping pills. Although sleeping pills are a short-term solution to insomnia, they don’t address the underlying cause of sleeplessness. If you’re unable to sleep without the aid of medication, it’s best to consult your doctor.
  • Take an emergency nap. If possible, take a 10 to 20-minute “power nap” when you’re tired to relieve fatigue and boost alertness.

Mental health issues

Studies suggest that fatigue is often associated with psychological issues. If you’re stressed, depressed, anxious or struggling with problems in your professional or personal life, it’s likely you’ll be more easily tired.

To address these types of issues, you may choose to get help from a GP or therapist. You can also relieve stress by exercising and periodically “taking time out”, for example to read, meditate or listen to music.


If fatigue continues to affect your work, it’s important to see a doctor to make sure there’s no serious, underlying medical issue.

If you’re unwell and this affects your ability to stay alert, take the time you need off work or, if necessary, investigate switching to a role that won’t put you and others at risk.

At KH Plant, we specialise in reconditioning Caterpillar motor graders, restoring them to as-new condition. Contact us for more information or a quotation.

Do you need expert assistance?

Call us now on +27 83 274 4882 or email us.

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