The role of fatigue in the workplace

What role does fatigue play in workplace accidents? Probably more of one than you'd expect.

In general, America is a nation of sleep-deprived people. Shift work, poor sleep schedules, over-caffeinated diets, busy social lives, second jobs and family obligations often leave people sacrificing the one thing they think that they can: their sleep.

However, the effects of fatigue can be very dangerous to workers in many different industries. When a worker isn't getting enough rest, it can cause:

  • Sleepiness (including falling asleep while on the job, behind the wheel or in other dangerous places)
  • Difficulty concentrating, which can also interfere with auditory and visual processing skills
  • Memory lapses, which can lead to easily avoidable mistakes and lapses in safety that can be critical
  • Slowed reaction times, including in the event of emergencies

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), accidents increase 18% during second shift work and 30% during the third shift compared to first shift work. When workers are required to work overtime, it also increases accidents. Working 12 hours a day, for example, can increase your risk of an accident by 37%.

Fatigue can also negatively affect your health in other ways, especially when the problem is constant. Fatigue has been linked to depression, reproductive issues, heart disease, digestive problems and anxiety. It has also been known to worsen existing conditions like diabetes.

If you find yourself too fatigued to handle your job, do the safe thing: Alert your supervisor that you're not able to continue and get some rest. If you are in an accident at work due to fatigue, find out more about the types of compensation that are available to you.

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