Fatigue hits most workers in high-risk jobs, raising workplace safety concerns
- A new National Safety Council (NSC) survey found that most workers (69%), feel tired at work, which increases the risk of on-the-job accidents and injuries. Employees most at risk are those performing shift work in safety-critical industries like manufacturing, utilities, construction and transportation. The report, Fatigue in Safety-Critical Industries: Impact, Risks and Recommendations, summarizes two national surveys: one of employers and the another of employees.
- Gaps between how employers and workers view the risks and consequences of fatigue in the workplace surfaced in the report. Among employers, 90% recognized fatigue's impact on their organizations, which includes observing employees involved in safety incidents and drops in productivity. Only 72% of employees see fatigue as a safety concern.
- In other survey results, 97% of employers in the transportation industry recognized fatigue's impact, the highest percentage among employers in safety-critical industries. One hundred percent of construction workers reported experiencing at least one fatigue risk factor. Within the transportation industry, workers who reported at least one fatigue risk factor cited long shifts (42%) and sleep loss (48%) as common causes of fatigue.
Employers, especially those in safety-critical industries, will want to make sure workers are aware of the causes and effects associated with fatigue. The disconnect about fatigue knowledge between employers and employees, as the NFS points out, is disturbing; it suggests that employees are ignoring their own fatigue symptoms and might be de-sensitized to potential dangers on the job. This means managers and supervisors need training in how to recognize symptoms of fatigue and stress in workers so they can quickly intervene before the consequences of either set in.
Work-related stress, which often culminates in fatigue, affects 94% of U.S. workers, a Wrike study of American and U.K. workers found. Employers can't afford to ignore the effects of stress: fatigue, burnout, chronic health conditions, high absenteeism, productivity losses and accidents. Stress reportedly costs employers $450 to $550 billion in lost productivity annually. Burnout is especially pernicious when it affects employees' health because it can lead to depression, anxiety and a host of chronic medical conditions that can severely interfere with their ability to perform.
Burnout also poses problems for employee engagement; tired or stressed-out employees are distracted employees. Well-being programs, along with employee assistant programs, can help employees manage stress, emotional issues, financial problems and health challenges.