April 27, 2021

Workplace Fatigue: Don't Sleep on It

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Jobs today often demand long hours of high output. Many workers take on extended work hours and irregular work shifts. While technology and time-management practices can help, the excessive workload ultimately results in fatigue, which increases the risk of accidents and injuries, reduces productivity, and leads to employee absenteeism.  

Workplace fatigue is still fatigue and a serious problem for many individuals. According to the National Safety Council, more than 43% of workers are sleep deprived. Predictably, this problem increases for shift-workers, those on-call, and those who frequently work night shifts. But any employee can experience “burnout” or signs of fatigue at work, and it can happen in any industry or company.  

Fatigue is more than just feeling tired. By definition, fatigue refers to mental or physical exhaustion that reduces one’s capacity to perform work safely and effectively. Signs of fatigue include tiredness or sleepiness, irritability, reduced alertness or memory, increased mistakes or lapses in judgement, and lack of motivation. While the cause of fatigue can be difficult to pinpoint and not always work-related, the most common include:

  • Prolonged or intense mental or physical activity
  • Sleep loss or disrupted sleep
  • Travel, including long commutes to and from work
  • Irregular scheduling or excessively long shifts
  • Strenuous activity
  • Extremely hot or cold work environments

The dangers of working when an employee is occasionally or chronically tired is not just their problem – it’s a problem that affects the entire organization. Even a minor error from fatigue can cause an entire workforce to be affected. It is estimated that employers lose up to $3,100 per employee each year due to workplace fatigue.  

When employers play an active role in keeping employees healthy, productive, and engaged, everyone is more successful. Here are some tips to successful fatigue risk management:

  • When shift scheduling, develop consistent schedules with frequent breaks, and schedule no more than four night shifts in a row
  • Balance workloads and proper staffing
  • Develop a report system for fatigue-related incidents
  • Train employees on fatigue and the management of sleep disorders
  • Train supervisors and managers on monitoring and identifying fatigue in workers

By identifying fatigue and taking proactive measures before it becomes an issue, you can ensure a safe, healthy, and productive work environment for your entire team.  

LWCC Safety Services

LWCC is committed to a safe and productive work environment. A variety of safety resources are available to our policyholders free of charge including online trainings, educational videos, and more. LWCC policyholders can cultivate a culture of safe driving by reaching out to our experienced team of Consultants on Call for recommendations and assistance.

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