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Don't Let Worker Fatigue Jeopardize Occupational Safety

Many companies are doing more with less right now. Employees might have extra responsibilities, while the standards for productivity and quality remain at the same levels. This equation can spell trouble in the workplace or at a worksite. Leaner operations can expedite worker burnout, which in turn leads to a greater chance of occupational hazards and injury.

Burnout is usually slow and gradual but the effects are experienced in real time. For one, even a small disruption in sleep patterns can pose a threat. Sleep deprivation, according to the National Sleep Foundation, increases the likelihood of a workplace accident by as much as 70 percent. The consequences of such a condition are on par with that of alcohol consumption, resulting in impaired judgment and poor performance at best. At worst, shoddy work could lead to serious injury or fatality. Read: legal hot water.

Although employees should take care to get adequate rest, the onus is the employer to monitor for signs or effects of fatigue on the job. The nature of the work can make a difference. Weariness only worsens with prolonged mental activity or long periods of stress or anxiety. Boring or mindless tasks can also contribute to the problem. Whether chronic or acute, either type is dangerous to overall occupational safety.

To that end, it's important to recognize the signs of fatigue, which can manifest as:

  • Tiredness or sleepiness
  • Memory lapses
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slower reaction times

While employee lifestyle and habits can certainly be at play when it comes to performance, the workplace's environment can be a factor, too. For example, research has shown that employees who are constantly exposed to loud noises are more likely to become prematurely tired. Air quality can be another variable. Don't dismiss the power of lighting as it relates to wellbeing at work. Generally speaking, workers who are exposed to bright lighting tend to be more alert than those who work in dim spaces.

It's also worth mentioning that the adhering to human resources best practices cannot be overstated. Prudent scheduling practices can help to limit the number of accidents on the job. For example, the number of hours on shift, the frequency and length of breaks, the time of day of the shift, the frequency of shift rotations, and even the number of hours off between shifts can help or hinder occupational safety.

Just like following common-sense protocols can keep people safe on site, taking preemptive measures, such as having a fatigue risk management system, can help in this way. Such a living document outlines the use of tools, systems, policies and procedures to help identify and reduce fatigue levels to the greatest extent possible. In general, it will empower safety managers to assess the level of danger related to worker fatigue and act accordingly to prevent accidents and other incidents.

Safety is everyone's business, including ours. Our wide selection of OSHA construction training online courses will develop your understanding of OSHA regulations that pertain to potential hazards in the construction industry. In the meantime, we wish you an incident free end to the year.



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