Fighting Workplace Fatigue

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, fatigue may be described as the state of feeling tired, resulting from a number of factors such as insufficient sleep, prolonged mental and/or physical work, or extended periods of stress and/or anxiety. It was also noted that boring and/or repetitive tasks can increase the feeling of fatigue.

How often do you feel fatigued at work, or hear a co-worker comment about feeling fatigued? It is estimated that 78% of employees go to work at least one day per week feeling tired. Research has shown that employees who receive less than 5 hours of sleep, or who have been awake for more than 16 hours significantly increase their chance of making work-related mistakes. Research has also shown that being awake for 17 hours is equivalent to a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05; as the number of hours awake increases the equivalent BAC increases as well. It has also been found that workplace accidents are more likely to occur between the hours of midnight and 6:00 am, and between the hours of 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm.

It is a common notion that employers who employ individuals in safety sensitive roles should be the only ones concerned about workplace fatigue. As previously noted, fatigue does play a very real role in workplace accidents; however, employers who employ individuals in non-safety sensitive roles should also be concerned. It is estimated that fatigue costs employers $330 million annually in lost productivity. In addition to this, there are negative health affects resulting from fatigue; for example, fatigue can be attributed to high blood pressure, depression, stoke and obesity. This should be cause for concern to all employers as fatigue may increase costs associated with absenteeism, health and welfare benefits, workers’ compensation claims and disability claims resulting in employer accommodation.

What can you do as an employer to mitigate the occurrence of fatigue and related risks? Ensure employees are provided with a work environment that has good lighting, comfortable temperatures, and reasonable noise levels. In addition, employers should ensure that employees have a variety of work related tasks to do throughout their shift. The responsibility does not solely fall to the employer; employees have a responsibility as well. Employees should take regular breaks, eat a well-balanced diet and make sleep a priority, not a luxury.

Chelsea Baglien / HR Administrator / PEO Canada

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