After a survey of over 2,000 workers performed in early 2018, the National Safety Council pointed to fatigue as a factor in 13 percent of workplace accidents, which negatively impacted 90 percent of employers.
Additionally, 32 percent of employers report injuries and near-accidents due to tired workers.
Employers with 1,000 workers may lose over $1 million each year from missed work days, low productivity and higher healthcare costs attributed to fatigue.
Other findings in the study revealed half of all employers reported an employee asleep on the job. Nine out of ten employers want to get to the root of why employees are tired, but only 55 percent will change an employee’s workload, schedule or tasks.
Seventy-four percent of employers think the incidence of fatigue is less than the actual numbers indicate, and 73 percent don’t talk about workplace fatigue with workers. However, 61 percent think employees don’t self-report fatigue.
At highest risk are employees who work long hours, overtime, several days in a row without a day off and workers who perform tasks in harsh environmental conditions.
Over half of U.S. employers report assigning an employee a night shift before or after a day shift and 60 percent do not offer a rest area to employees.
A 2012 American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found interventions, both medical and lifestyle, along with changes in work organization, “can help promote alertness.”
The study states that employees who work long hours or at night, especially in risk-prone jobs, can benefit from a discussion about fatigue and how to address it in the workplace.
A University of Paris, Descartes, study found that injury risk is 31 percent higher among night shift workers than their morning counterparts. As the number of night shifts worked by an individual employee increased, so did the risk, 36 percent by the fourth shift and risk doubled by the time the employee worked 12 hours in a single day.
The interesting finding is that risk decreased by almost 50 percent after workers took a rest break, of any length, according to the Paris research.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reports that long hours and extended and irregular shifts contribute to fatigue, the body needs rest.
Tiredness may be the result of too little, poor quality or interrupted sleep over a period of time.
Fatigue increases physical and mental stress and the longer an employee works, the more exposure to potential hazards.
OSHA recommends that employers monitor and limit exposure time to hazards in the workplace.
According to the OSHA website, “too little, poor quality or interrupted sleep over a period of time can cause fatigue.”
OSHA states that injury rates are increased by 18 percent during evening shifts and 30 percent higher during night shifts when both are compared to day shifts. Working 12 hours a day translates into 37 percent more injury risk. “Every extended shift scheduled in a month increased by 16.2 percent monthly risk of a motor vehicle crash during their commute home from work.”
Data from a National Health Interview Survey revealed that workers who sleep less than five out of 24 hours were injured at nearly eight workers per 100, while only 2.3 employees per 100 are injured when they get seven to eight hours of sleep a day.
According to an article in Safety and Health Magazine, “Employers are becoming increasingly aware that fatigue is a safety issue” and that a collaboration between employers and employees can help address the issue, but first, a dialogue needs to occur from the top down, between management and workers, to succeed.
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Tamera Shaw is a freelance writer for Insured Solutions based in Louisville, Kentucky. She writes fiction and enjoys amateur photography. She happily shares her life with husband Ron, daughter Cate and sage cat, Sophie, who grudgingly shares her home with the newest member of our family – Nieko, our new kitten.