The National Safety Council defines fatigue as "physical, mental or social impairment that includes tiredness, sleepiness, reduced energy and increased effort needed to perform tasks at a desired level." Fatigue is a danger across American industries, made worse by the fact that nearly four out of every ten workers suffers sleep loss.
Who is at Risk?
Any industry can put its employees at risk of fatigue, but the NSC identified the employees who face the highest risk of suffering at work. Shift workers were high on that list, especially those working long shifts, rotating shifts, or shifts that end very late or begin very early. These schedules may interfere with sleep rhythms, and 62 percent of shift workers state that they struggle to get enough sleep.
Another risk factor is the time-on-task effect. This describes tasks that are tedious or require a long period of high energy, whether mental or physical. These tasks can promote fatigue and grow more dangerous the longer an employee works on them. Parents of small children, workers with sleep disorders, and those on medications that alter sleep habits also make the list of workers who face an elevated risk of workplace fatigue. In general, it is recommended that individuals get at least seven hours of sleep in any 24-hour period; anything less than that, for any reason, encourages fatigue.
Results of Fatigue
The fact that fatigue at work is so widespread is only part of the story. OSHA presents some information on the impact fatigue has on workplace safety. Compared to day shifts, fatigue is associated with an 18 percent increase in injury and accident rates during evening shifts and a 30 percent increase of the same during night shifts. During 12-hour shifts, this risk increases by 37 percent.
Even if the shift goes well, workers carry the danger with them when they leave. According to a study cited by OSHA, every extended shift added per month increases the chance of car accidents on the way home from work by 16.2 percent. Fatigue has also been associated with health problems, including but not limited to heart disease, reproductive disorders, depression, and some forms of cancer.
Workers deserve a workplace that cares about their safety. This not only includes safety gear and systems to protect against accidents, but also systems which enable employees to function safely while there. If you have suffered a workplace injury that may be related to fatigue or other preventable causes, contact O'Malley & Langan Law Offices today so we can help you fight for the care and justice you deserve.