National Safety Month: Focusing on Fatigue

This is Week 2 of National Safety Month. The topic for the week is “Recharge to Be in Charge (Focusing on Fatigue).”

Below you will find a graphic and an excerpt from an article written by Sarah Trotto regarding titled “Fatigue and Worker Safety.”

We ask you to convey the importance of proper rest during a Safety Meeting this week.

Possible solutions

Although workers can help prevent fatigue through measures such as taking breaks and adopting better sleep habits, employers also can help combat the issue.

A November report from RAND Europe, part of the nonprofit research organization RAND Corp., concluded that lack of sleep results in a 13 percent increased risk of death and the loss of 1.2 million workdays per year in the United States. The report offers the following recommendations for employers:

  • Understand the importance of sleep and promote it.
  • Create brighter workplaces with settings for naps.
  • Deter lengthy use of electronic devices after work.

According to a Liberty Mutual report, recommendations for scheduling include:

  • Working during the day rather than at night
  • Restricting consecutive day shifts to five or six days and night shifts to four days
  • Ensuring workers have at least two consecutive days off
  • Making schedules consistent
  • Providing frequent breaks

Supervisors should be alert for signs of excessive fatigue among workers, such as yawning, head dropping, and difficulty remembering or concentrating, according to the statement from ACOEM.

In addition, a risk management system can help mitigate fatigue. A risk management system can include reporting of fatigue-related incidents, investigation, training and auditing, Marks said, adding that “it would include things like making sure sleep disorders are covered on the insurance plan, and people are encouraged to get this evaluated.”

Even if a company does not invest in a complex management system, it can share messages about fatigue, such as the importance of not consuming alcohol before bedtime.

“These are little things that can come out in toolbox safety talks, little five-minute lectures on a topic to pass on the information,” Marks said.

Other ways to mitigate worker fatigue include moving safety-sensitive work to other employees or another time to take advantage of alertness, taking breaks, ingesting caffeine and changing environmental factors, according to ACOEM.

“Being cognizant of how the workplace is set up, how the work is handled, will help improve some of those issues,” Marks said.

“The things that can help: Improving lighting, making sure the temperature is cooler – especially at night – minimizing humidity, noise, vibration. As employers are looking at reengineering workplaces or building new ones, these are things that can be put in place at the beginning or during retrofit to help minimize some of these situations.”