Fatigue is a Threat to Workplace Safety
With nearly four out of ten workers in America suffering from sleep deficits, fatigue at work is a common danger. Fatigue impacts the quality of work and the safety of the workplace, and it is most common among shift workers.
More than simply being tired, the National Safety Council defines fatigue as "physical, mental or social impairment that includes tiredness, sleepiness, reduced energy and increased effort needed to perform tasks at a desired level."
Dangers of Fatigue
Fatigue is not merely an inconvenience or a hindrance to good work; it poses an active threat to workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lays out some of the dangers of fatigue, including an 18 percent increase in injury and accident rates during evening shifts and a 30 percent increase during night shifts. An even higher 37 percent increase is associated with working 12-hour shifts.
The effects are not limited to on-the-job injuries, either. OSHA cites a 2005 study that shows a 16.2 percent monthly increase in the chances of a car accident on the way home from work for every extended shift added that month. Beyond even that, fatigue has been associated with a host of medical issues, including but not limited to heart disease, reproductive disorders, depression, and some forms of cancer.
Workers at Risk
The National Safety Council describes employees most at risk for fatigue. This include shift workers, especially those working long shifts, rotating shifts, or shifts that end very late or begin very early. As many as 62 percent of shift workers state that they struggle to get enough sleep. Likewise, tasks that are tedious or require a long period of high energy, whether mental or physical, encourage fatigue.
This is known as the time-on-task effect, in which a task grows more difficult to focus on the longer one works on it. Other groups at high risk of fatigue and its related dangers are parents of small children, employees with sleep disorders, and those on medication which hinders sleep. In general, it is recommended that individuals get at least seven hours of sleep in any 24-hour period.
Workers need the opportunity to get a healthy amount of sleep and ways to break tedium during their work. Workplaces that inhibit their employees from a suitable sleep schedule or keep workers on repetitive or high-energy tasks are setting themselves up to see injuries and illnesses happen.
If you have been injured at work, either due to your own fatigue or that of a coworker, contact us today to discuss your legal options.