The Role of Fatigue in Workplace Accidents

The Role of Fatigue in Workplace Accidents

by / Wednesday, 03 November 2021 / Published in Workplace Woes
A fatigued worker wearing an orange hard hat holds his head.

When people talk about common causes of workplace injuries, they tend to talk about things like falls, overexertion, transportation accidents, and exposure to harmful substances. But when you get right down to it, what are the root causes that lead to those types of events? Very often, fatigue can be cited as a contributing factor. 

It’s difficult for workplace safety officials to quantify the full extent that fatigue relates injuries in the workplace. While OSHA doesn’t have data about exactly how many workplace accidents are caused by fatigue each year, they do know that accident and injury rates are 18% higher during evening shifts and 30% higher during night shifts in comparison to day shifts. They also know that working 12 hours per day is linked to a 37% higher risk of injury. 

The reason for this is simple: when people are fatigued, it can impact their judgement and reaction times. When this happens, it becomes more likely a person will do things like misjudge the danger of a situation, forget to follow safety measures, or make other types of mistakes that can endanger the safety of themselves and others. For example, if a person whose job involves lots of driving is fatigued while they work, it’s more likely they will get into a traffic crash for reasons like dozing off behind the wheel, veering out of their lane, or failing to stop in time.

Employee fatigue has even been cited as a contributing factor to several very notable disasters, such as the 2005 Texas City BP refinery explosion, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and the 2009 Colgan air crash. 

Industries With High Levels of Fatigue

Feeling fatigued at work is a problem that can easily happen to anyone, particularly in the days following daylight savings time changes, but it tends to be a problem in certain types of industries more than others. It’s particularly common in any industry where people work long shifts at demanding jobs and jobs where people work shifts that disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. So it tends to be a common problem for people who work as truck drivers and pilots or in settings like hospitals and power plants. For example, truck drivers have lots of restrictions about things like rest times and for how many consecutive hours they can be on duty. 

In the healthcare industry, employee fatigue can not only jeopardize the safety of the employee, it can jeopardize the care they provide for patients. An overworked nurse, for instance, might forget to check in on a patient or make a mistake when giving them medication. 

Contact a Workplace Injury Lawyer

When people are working long shifts at demanding jobs, it’s very important for employers to make sure employees are able to get an adequate amount of rest. When employers push people to work longer than they should, it’s very easy for people to get hurt. If you’ve been injured on the job, it’s very important to contact a workplace injury lawyer as soon as possible to make sure your worker’s compensation claim is handled correctly and so that you can get answers to any questions you may have. 

At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to speak to a Michigan-based lawyer who is highly experienced in handling workplace accident claims. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

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