How dangerous is fatigue on the job?

Most Americans are running on less sleep than they actually need -- and that's a big problem that can lead to unnecessary workplace accidents.

According to researchers, an employee who has gone just 15 hours without sleep is already functioning like someone who has been drinking. They're also almost three times as likely to end up in an accident than their nonfatigued co-workers.

Here are some of the scarier facts you should know about worker fatigue:

  • Shift work can contribute to the problem of workplace fatigue. Accidents on the second shift (evening), are 18% more common. On the third shift (nights), workplace accidents increase by 30%.
  • Long shifts -- those that go beyond a normal workday -- can also aggravate fatigue-related issues. Working a 12-hour day increases the odds you'll be in an accident by 37%.
  • A company that's conscious of how fatigue affects its workers and takes steps to reduce the issue can reduce fatigue-related accidents by as much as 55%.

Additionally, many tired workers resort to endless cups of coffee, sugar-laden energy drinks and lots of carbohydrates to fight their fatigue and keep going. All of those things can aggravate the problems they have functioning normally and create new problems.

Aside from just being tired, a worker who isn't getting enough rest may be jumpy from too much sugar and caffeine and unable to focus as much as they should on safety procedures. Fatigue and caffeine alike can also impair a worker's reflexes -- which means that they may be slower to respond to obvious workplace hazards.

Workers can't do their best for a company when they're operating without enough rest. If you're involved in a fatigue-related accident at work, find out your right to compensation for your lost wages and medical costs.

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