Fatigue: the persistent feeling that one is tired and sleepy, with reduced energy levels which require the person to work harder to accomplish tasks at the desired level. Fatigue is a risk factor in the workplace because everyone is exposed to it, forcing people to work amid others exhibiting an impaired ability to think clearly, work safely and productively, and make good decisions rapidly.
In this, the second of a three-part series that discusses the dangers of drowsy employees, we learn more about the insidious nature of fatigue—and how some major risk factors for workplace fatigue can stack up to create a safety incident faster than you can say NoDōz. Red-eyed respondents (percentages in parentheses) in a recent National Safety Council survey reported the following fatigue-inducing behaviors or work conditions, resulting in an increased risk of injury:
- Performing physically or cognitively demanding jobs which require long periods of high attention, or tasks that are repetitive and monotonous for long periods of time uninterrupted (81%)
- Workplace environments that are uncomfortably hot or cold, or poorly lit (43%)
- Lack of sleep—less than the seven to nine hours each night that experts say most people need for optimum health and mental clarity (43%)
- Working (even occasionally) at high-risk times, which are defined as early morning or evening hours (41%)
- Long commutes, defined as more than 30 minutes each way—because workers who drive long distances have less time to rest and recover (31%)
- Working long shifts of 10 or more hours at a time, which can be taxing both mentally and physically (21%)
- Insufficient time between shifts—the survey indicates that workers need a minimum of 12 hours between work shifts to recharge, rest and recover (14%)
- Lack of rest breaks—failure to take a break periodically means that employees don’t have any time to pause and recover from job stresses (10%)
- Working extended overtime, meaning weeks where a worker puts in 50 hours or more in a week, and/or working more than five to seven consecutive days in a row (22%)
- Working non-day schedules, defined as night shifts, early-morning shifts, rotating shifts, or irregular shifts, which disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. Typically it is these workers who are the most at risk for fatigue because their constantly changing schedules disproportionately affect them while they are working against their body clocks—and nearly 60% of night shift workers report they sleep less than seven hours per night, compared to 45% of daytime workers. (17%)
Managing Fatigue Is a Vital Safety Measure
It’s important to realize that fatigue is prevalent in every part of the American workplace, leaving everyone—fatigued or not—exposed to the safety risks fatigued workers pose. Employers that are willing to continue learning more about the nature of fatigue, how to recognize its symptoms and how to reduce its presence in the workplace by reducing practices that foster fatigue can effectively mitigate health and safety risks, which can translate into lower Workers Compensation costs in the long run. RPS provides a number of Workers Compensation coverage solutions, and can assist with obtaining a policy tailored expressly for your clients’ needs. Contact us for more information.
Source: National Safety Council, Fatigue in the Workplace, June 2018.