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Battling a Hidden Workplace Hazard

2018-07-19T10:39:47+00:00July 26th, 2018|

On my yearly visit to the doctor regarding my sleep apnea condition, I fill out a survey regarding how likely I am to fall sleep under various conditions (watching television, sitting still following lunch, etc.) The potential closing of the eyes and beyond at work is a serious situation, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).

An NSC survey found 90% of America’s employers have been negatively impacted by tired employees, with half saying they’ve had an employee fall asleep on the job. Fifty-seven percent of employers have experienced absenteeism, and another 32% report injuries and near-misses due to fatigued employees.

Fatigue not only hurts employees’ well-being and safety, but it also carries a significant price tag. An employer with 1,000 employees can expect to lose more than $1 million each year in missed workdays, lower productivity and increased healthcare due to employee fatigue.

Thirteen percent of workplace injuries can be attributed to fatigue, a dangerous byproduct of personal risk factors and a society that operates 24 hours a day. The new data summarized in the report identify workplace practices and policies that are contributing to worker fatigue, such as night shift and overtime scheduling, a lack of time off between shifts and inadequate rest areas within the workplace for employees to take breaks.

Other key survey findings in the report include:

  • 90% of employers say they will meet with a fatigued employee to understand the root causes of the fatigue, but only 55 percent say they will adjust an employee’s schedule or tasks accordingly
  • 74% of employers underestimate the prevalence of fatigue in the workforce
  • 73% do not communicate to employees about fatigue
  • 61% do not believe their employees would feel comfortable telling them if they were too tired to perform their job safely
  • 51% allow a night shift immediately before or after a day shift, increasing the employee’s fatigue and risk of being injured
  • 60% lack a designated area for employees to rest

Both reports are available at nsc.org/fatiguereport. Employers can calculate the costs of fatigue with the NSC Fatigue Cost Calculator, available at nsc.org/tiredatwork.

Tom Schuman is the senior vice president of communications & operations for the Indiana Chamber. He is also the editor of the Chamber’s award-winning BizVoice magazine and has been with the organization for 20 years.