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The Dangers of Worker Fatigue: How Employers Can Promote Safety and Prevent Impairment

Take the proper measures to avoid worker impairment within the workplace.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 15 million Americans work irregular schedules, including full-time evening shifts, night shifts, and rotating shifts. These shifts have been associated with safety and health risks, and certain jobs are at higher risk. It is important that both employers and employees are educated on worker fatigue risks to keep the workplace safe and running smoothly.

What Causes It?

Several factors cause worker fatigue, including too little or poor-quality sleep over a period of time. This is also known as a disrupted circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is a 24-hour internal cycle that controls when you feel alert and when you feel sleepy. Fatigue can also be intensified by long work hours or insufficient rest during the workday.

Industries commonly affected by worker fatigue include healthcare, transportation, first responders, military, construction, hospitality, and many others.

The Side Effects

It is hard for the body to acclimate to changing/irregular schedules. Along with increased stress and lack of concentration, the side effects of worker fatigue may include the following:

  • Increased chance of not being able to pay full attention to the task at hand, such as operating a machine or a vehicle. This can lead to even larger disasters on the job.
  • Increased risk of injuries. Research indicates that working 12 hours per day is associated with a 37% increased risk of injury.
  • Decreased physical and mental health may result in greater time off the job due to illness and increased employer compensation costs.

How Employees Can Improve Worker Fatigue

  1. Moderate your workload as much as possible. If shifts are long, try to choose lighter tasks. If the work is intense, try to work shorter shifts.
  2. Eat nutritious meals at regular times.
  3. For demanding work, take frequent rest breaks every couple of hours.
  4. Exercise regularly if you can, even a brisk walk can make all the difference.
  5. Schedule heavy or challenging work when you are more alert to decrease the risk of an accident.
  6. Adjust lighting or temperature (or request that they are adjusted) if either is impairing your alertness at work.
  7. Get at least 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. This is the recommended amount of sleep for adults from the National Sleep Foundation.

Article provided by OneDigital

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