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Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law
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How Fatigue Jeopardizes Worker Safety


When it comes to hazardous conditions for employees, one of the most dangerous is also perhaps one of the least controllable by employers. Fatigued or exhausted employees often have their judgement impaired, reaction times increased, have difficulty focusing, and many other potentially dangerous symptoms. While in some cases this can affect work quality, in other situations it can put both themselves and their co-workers at serious risk for an injury, particularly when a fatigued worker is required to operate heavy machinery or use a dangerous tool or substance. As a result, fatigued workers are a potentially huge risk for employers both personnel-wise and financially.

What Causes Fatigue?

Fatigue can be caused by an abundance of different factors. A 2012 study by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that fatigue was predominantly the body’s response to physical or mental hard work. Occupationally, this includes risks like long hours, a heavy workload, and lack of sleep. However, environmental factors can also play a role. High-stress positions or jobs that place an immense amount of pressure on workers frequently lead to fatigued employees that are more prone to mistakes. However, even workers without a lot of occupational stresses could also suffer if their relationships with their coworkers are strained or poor.

Finally, perhaps the biggest risk factor for fatigue is employees who work multiple jobs. Our 24-hour society doesn’t stop, and in order to make ends meet people must sometimes take on additional work. However, a study performed by David Lombardi from the Center for Injury Epidemiology at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety found that workers who had an increased work load, including consecutive shifts at multiple jobs, were at an immensely greater risk than those who work just a single shift per day. In fact, night shift workers were 31 percent more likely to be injured on the job than morning shift workers, and by the fourth consecutive night, that risk had increased another 36 percent from before. By the 12th hour of work on any given night, that risk nearly doubled.

Managing Employees to Prevent Fatigue

The importance of rest for employees cannot be understated. The National Health Interview Survey found that nearly 7.8 workers out of every 100 who slept five hours per day or less are injured every year, compared to just under 2.3 of every 100 workers who slept between seven and eight hours per night. As an employer, how can you encourage your employees to get the rest they need and keep your workplace safe for everyone?

The easiest way to do so is to create a manageable workload for each employee and not overwork staff to the point where they are exhausted after just a few days. While labor can be expensive, adding an extra set of hands could wind up being what makes an unmanageable and exhausting workload suddenly become enjoyable and balanced for your workers. In turn, the extra labor cost could drastically outweigh the effects on your employees, and even lead to a significant boost in morale, a major benefit from a human resources standpoint.

Scheduling shifts appropriately can also help immensely when it comes to fighting fatigue. If your business has employees work in multiple shifts, scheduling employees so their start times are mostly consistent as well as giving them an appropriate amount of time to adapt between an evening and morning shift (or vice versa) can significantly decrease employee fatigue.

You should also make sure to keep an eye on your workers and train management staff to notice signs of employee fatigue in order to effectively combat it before it can cause a serious issue. This includes training all employees on the dangerous consequences fatigue can have and encouraging them to do everything they can to seek help from supervisors when they are not receiving adequate rest. When nearly 40% of all workers in the United States sleep less than seven hours per night, this could go a long way to reducing injuries and devastating accidents.

Have you been injured as a result of an incident caused by worker fatigue? Retain the help of an Albequerque workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible! Call Michael J. Doyle, Attorney at Law today and put more than 10 years of trial-tested experience on your side. Contact us today by dialing 505-219-2176 and request a free case evaluation.