Nicolet Law Office, S.C.

Fatigue a big factor in workplace injuries

Construction workers, manufacturing employees, hospital and nursing care providers and truck drivers--all these workers are more prone to experiencing workplace injuries. But one factor that is affecting employee safety is one not commonly thought of: fatigue.

In fact, jobs where employees work long hours and irregular shifts lead to more fatigue. And, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace accident and injury rates were 30% greater during night shifts than during day shifts. Health care providers, emergency personnel, warehouse personnel and truck drivers often work overnight shifts, and long shifts, increasing fatigue safety risks.

How can fatigue impact safety?

Worker fatigue can lead to the following problems:

  • Inability to make decisions
  • Increase in errors
  • Inability to make complex decisions or do complex tasks
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Increased forgetfulness

All of these can not only put workers at risk for their own safety, but also affect the safety of others.

What causes workplace fatigue?

Often, fatigue-related workplace injuries happen when working hours increase--with workers putting in overtime hours and not getting a long enough break between shifts. For example, after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the worst of its kind, engineers cited working 13 hours or more a shift when the accident occurred.

Also, working long hours and irregular shifts increases physical and metal stress, as does working more than one job.

Finally, an underlying sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, can lead to fatigue.

How can you combat worker fatigue?

If you are in a profession where long shifts and overtime are the norm, you should think about how you can get enough rest. For one, speaking with a manager if you feel you really need some time off is good way to avoid workplace fatigue and potential injuries.

Also, it's important to take frequent breaks when fatigue is more likely, such as during an overnight shift.

Finally, working to keep a more consistent sleep schedule will help you battle fatigue. So, night shift workers should go to bed close to the same time each day, avoid TV watching or using your phone in bed, and use room-darkening shades if needed. All of these will help ensure you get the rest you need before your next shift.

If you have been injured at work, whether because of fatigue or another safety factor, contact a workers' compensation attorney. You want to ensure you receive fair compensation for treating your injury and for lost wages.

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