The Correlation Between Worker Fatigue and an Unsafe Working Environment

The Correlation Between Worker Fatigue and an Unsafe Working Environment

by / Monday, 26 December 2016 / Published in Workplace Woes

Not everyone works a standard 9 to 5 schedule. Depending on the type of job you have, you might have to work longer shifts at more unusual times of the day. Or even if you usually work a more conventional schedule, you might have to put in longer hours than usual during a busy season, if the company is understaffed, or if there are major deadlines to meet. However, working these kinds of long hours for an extended amount of time can take a major toll on worker health and jeopardize workplace safety.

Many people tend to dismiss fatigue as something that’s just not that serious of a problem, but numerous studies have shown a definitive link between worker fatigue and unsafe working conditions. According to a recent study, fatigue puts workers at a higher risk of death, results in 1.2 million lost working days annually, and costs the American economy up to $411 billion each year. Another study conducted in Canada found that people who worked night and rotating shifts were two times more likely to be injured on the job than people who worked standard day shifts. While some occupations, such as truck driver, have regulations mandating how many consecutive hours a person can work for and how long they must be able rest for in between shifts, many workers do not have that kind of protection.

It’s long been established that not getting enough sleep can impair a person about as much as alcohol can. Studies have shown that a person who has been awake for 21 hours tends to be impaired at the same level a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 would be. Not only does fatigue make it harder for a person to work as effectively as they’d be able to when they’re well rested, it’s harder for them to be alert and aware of their surroundings, placing them at higher risk for injuries. An excessively-fatigued worker might forget about an important safety precaution, overlook signs of danger, or lack the manual dexterity needed to do the job properly. All of this is particularly dangerous when a job involves working with machinery, working at a height, powerful tools, chemicals, or providing medical care.

Worker fatigue is also highly dangerous for jobs that involve driving. Just like with alcohol, fatigue slows down reaction times and impairs judgement. A study from AAA found that just losing an hour or two of sleep is all it takes to increase the risk of a car accident. In drivers with 4 or fewer hours of sleep, the risk of a car accident was about on par with a driver whose blood alcohol level was 0.12-0.15.

All those hours of lost sleep add up to make a huge difference. Workers who get less than 6 hours of sleep per night have a 13% higher risk of dying on the job than workers who get 7-9 hours of sleep. Not only does allowing workers to have adequate time to rest make the workplace safer, it’s also good for the economy. It’s estimated that in the United States, allowing workers to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night have the potential to generate upwards of $226.4 billion for the economy. A well-rested workforce benefits everybody.

 

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