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Fatigue At Work

January Safety Tip

Fatigue at Work – A Safety Nightmare In The Making

Fatigue is the state of feeling very tired, weary or sleepy. It results from not getting enough sleep, shiftwork, prolonged mental or physical work, or extended periods of stress or anxiety. Fatigue impacts work performance and safety and can cause health problems.

The risk of making mistakes at work increases dramatically if workers sleep for less than seven to eight hours, or are awake for more than 17 consecutive hours. One of the most important ways to protect against fatigue is to get enough rest. For most people that means seven to eight hours of sleep per night. 

Employers and supervisors should be concerned about the impact of fatigue in the workplace as it can be considered a form of impairment, making fatigue a workplace hazard. However, fatigue levels are not easily measured or quantified; therefore, it is difficult to isolate the effect of fatigue on accident and injury rates. Awareness and observation of changes in behavior is one method to identify fatigue. Factors that may influence fatigue are shift rotation patterns, balanced workloads, timing of tasks and activities, availability of resources, and the workplace environment (e.g., lighting, ventilation, temperature, etc.).

Research has shown that the number of hours awake can be similar to blood alcohol levels. One study reports the following:

  • 17 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.05
  • 21 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.08
  • 24-25 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.10

Fatigue affects people differently but it can increase a worker’s hazard exposure by:

  • reducing mental and physical functioning,
  • impairing judgement and concentration,
  • lowering motivation,
  • slowing reaction time, and
  • increasing risk-taking behavior.

Tips On Getting A Good Night Sleep

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Don’t eat too close to bedtime, as doing so can cause heartburn and just generally make it hard to fall asleep. Do eat a balanced diet of fruits, veggies, healthy fats, proteins and whole grains.
  • Turn off your cell phone or tablet at least one hour before you go to sleep and don’t watch TV in bed.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat at regular intervals and consume a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and protein.
  • If you are not sleepy, do not try to go to bed. Get up and read or do something quiet instead.
  • Avoid caffeine, tobacco or alcohol – especially before bed time.
  • Ask family members to be respectful if one person is sleeping.  Family members can use headphones for the TV and radio if necessary.
  • Make the room as dark and quiet as possible. Use heavy, dark curtains, blinds, or a sleeping eye mask. Soundproof the room where possible or use ear plugs.
  • Most people sleep better when the room is cool. Consider using an air conditioner or fan in the summer months.

 

Fatigue at Work – A Safety Nightmare in the Making

 

January 2019 Safety Tip:  Fatigue at Work

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