Workplace safety involves anything that could have an impact on how employees perform job duties and move throughout a facility. That includes factors businesses have little or no control over, like worker fatigue.
Although companies have few direct controls beyond making sure employees working very long shifts have adequate breaks in between, they need to address tired, groggy or slow-to-respond staff to avoid injuries and costly damage. Recent news about the prevalence of fatigue in the workplace means it’s even more important to address this widespread issues and make facilities as safe as they can possibly be.
Nearly 4 in 10 workers suffer from fatigue in the workplace
EHS Today reported on proceedings from the 2017 National Safety Congress in Indianapolis, where Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, discussed overtired employees and the many issues associated with them. Hersman noted fatigue is the rare issue that can stretch across literally every job description and industry, and is a universal concern.
“Lack of sleep affects employees at work and while traveling.”
She noted the direct impacts of tired employees include increased likelihood of accidents and injuries, but the problems extend beyond immediate concerns. In the long term, continued fatigue and lack of a proper amount of sleep can lead to poor employee health, potentially increasing the incidence or severity of issues like diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, employees feel the effects of a lack of rest when they commute back and forth to work. Reduced alertness and reaction time both negatively influence driver performance, and put workers at risk as they travel to and from job sites each day.
The frequency with which fatigue occurs in the workplace must be recognized to craft an effective response. According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and reported by EHS Today, on average, 38 percent of all employees report fatigue symptoms at least once in a two-week period. Businesses as a whole, alongside the managers, supervisors and EHS specialists that address safety issues, need to look at this as a broad-based problem that can lead to negative consequences at nearly any workplace.
There aren’t direct safeguards to protect workers from fatigue in the same way that a potentially dangerous piece of machinery or storage room of volatile chemicals may be guarded. Even when compared to drug use – which can be addressed to a significant extent with testing and workplace rules – fatigue presents unique challenges for companies. That doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to tackle this issue, just that those approaches differ from many of the other strategies used to keep employees safe.
Taking on the problem of employee fatigue
“Discussing the need for sleep is an important part of addressing workplace fatigue.”
Safety.BLR.com shared recommendations for addressing fatigue from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, including more effective management of staff and shifts. Having enough workers to avoid long stretches of regular overtime can mitigate one of the major causes of tired employees. Similarly, businesses should try to give as many employees as possible the chance to sleep at night, as night shifts can lead to more issues with quality of sleep and disruptions of rest.
Training, encouragement and education all also play major roles. While it seems like basic information, employers should share information about the need for a good night’s sleep and the problems that can arise from missing it. Also, encouraging employees to be proactive about sleep-related health issues and work with their doctors to address them.
Workplace fatigue is one of many issues businesses must address to keep employees healthy, happy and focused. Get in touch with Total Safety today to ensure your workplace is as safe as possible.