Everyone has been tired at work at some point. Fatigue occurs whenever a person is sleep deprived and needs rest. The National Safety Council (NSC), a non-profit safety advocacy organization focused on eliminating leading causes of preventable death, has found that over 43 percent of workers are sleep deprived.
Symptoms of fatigue can include feeling exhausted, irritable, or forgetful. Fatigue can be chronic or acute. Chronic sleep deprivation is known to cause cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, and other illnesses. Fatigue has also been linked to other medical problems, including digestive disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, reproductive problems, and some cancers. It can also worsen chronic diseases, such as diabetes and epilepsy.
Modern lifestyles often pose challenges to getting enough sleep. Overextending obligations to care for family, having multiple jobs, and other situations can cause chronic fatigue. Prolonged physical or mental work or long periods of anxiety and/or stress can also cause fatigue. Sometimes, medical conditions are responsible for work fatigue, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome. In addition, some medications interfere with normal sleep patterns.
The workplace can also be a contributing factor to sleep deprivation. The body operates on a sleep-wake cycle called the circadian rhythm, which programs the body to sleep at night. Interfering with the rhythm causes many problems. Those who work long shifts, irregular shifts, or overnight shifts are more vulnerable to fatigue, work injuries, and workplace accidents.
Why is Fatigue a Safety Hazard?
Being tired or fatigued can reduce productivity. In fact, working while fatigued can also risk serious injury or even death. Fatigue can increase risk-taking behavior and interfere with physical and mental function. It can interfere with cognitive processing, such as complex planning ability and problem-solving skills.
Certain high-risk activities are particularly dangerous when workers are fatigued, such as:
- Operating machinery or equipment.
- Driving a vehicle, such as a forklift.
- Handling hazardous materials.
It is important for employers and employees alike to be aware of fatigue and to avoid working when fatigue interferes significantly in performance.
What can Employers Do to Address Fatigue in the Workplace?
An employer can identify signs of fatigue and suggest that a worker take paid personal leave to go home to rest if their performance is obviously negatively impacted by fatigue. Signs of fatigue include excessive yawning, red eyes, lack of focus, slow response times, and poor work performance. The worker should be able to travel home safely and may need to take a taxi rather than drive home.
While work typically makes employees tired, there are some steps that employers can do to reduce the risk of fatigue. Examples include:
- Providing relaxation rooms or on-site sleep pods for use during rest breaks.
- Balancing workloads effectively and rotating overtime assignments among employees.
- Ensuring workers are scheduled to have two consecutive days off work.
- Providing training on recognizing fatigue, its causes, and consequences.
- Optimizing alertness by controlling the environment to provide cooler workplace temperatures, lower humidity, and access to natural light.
Addressing fatigue in the workplace may cost employers a significant investment. However, there can be a significant return on this investment if it reduces fatigue-related workplace accidents and increases productivity. If a work accident does occur and the worker needs additional help, the injured employee should speak to a lawyer about a Workers’ Compensation claim.
Delaware County Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Law Office of Deborah M. Truscello Advocate for Safe Work Practices That Reduce Fatigue
Workplace fatigue can cause injuries and accidents. It is important that workers get adequate rest. Employers should also recognize the signs of worker fatigue and help mitigate this danger. If you need help after a work accident, speak to a Delaware County Workers’ Compensation lawyer at the Law Office of Deborah M. Truscello. Call us at (610) 892-4940 or complete our online form for a free consultation. Located in Media, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Lancaster, Montgomery County, Norristown, Philadelphia, Reading, and West Chester, Pennsylvania.