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Managing Fatigue in the Workplace

6/18/19  |  Jim Lanz, Rexel Technical Consultant

According to the National Safety Council, more than 43% of workers are sleep deprived. And over one-fifth of Americans live with some form of sleep disorder. Whether or not you fall into one of those categories, you may find yourself tired one or more days a week, impacting your job performance and increasing the likelihood of workplace accidents. Managing fatigue can increase your efficiency and keep you safe.

When you’re tired, you may find yourself frustrated with assignments and distracted during repetitious tasks. Familiarizing yourself with fatigue symptoms and learning to improve or prevent them can improve your safety in the workplace.

Fatigue Costs Money

With nearly half the nation’s working force battling sleep deprivation, employers are losing between $1,200 to $3,100 per fatigued employee annually, with costs totaling an estimated $136 billion annually in lost productivity. If you’re working the night shift or long/irregular shifts, you are among the most susceptible to fatigue, with 62% of night-shift workers complaining of sleep loss.

Experience Doesn’t Mitigate Fatigue

That’s right; whether you’re on day two of your job or your 27th year, fatigue can still negatively impact your performance and safety. Complacency due to fatigue can happen at any point. Meaning, even if you’ve performed the same task each day for many years, a moment’s oversight costs the company the same amount of money. And sometimes those costs can be medical bills if the oversight causes bodily harm.

Whether you’re an employer, an employee, or both, managing fatigue is critical.

Spotting Fatigue

Managing fatigue is about more than sleep habits. Depending on your job, there are a variety of fatigue predictors, creating the potential for mistakes. For a truck driver, a predictor might look like logging over a maximum number of hours per week. And for a factory worker, working at the same station for more than one shift. In circumstances like these, fatigue can take the form of headaches, eyestrain, confusion, or malaise. Ergonomic stress also contributes to fatigue, with physical discomfort causing mistakes.

Sound familiar? If so, you aren’t alone.

Combatting and Managing Fatigue

You can make changes to your lifestyle and workflow to decrease fatigue levels.

        - Get enough sleep: The average person needs about seven hours of sleep each night. If you believe health is an issue, see your doctor about getting screened for a sleep disorder.

        - Keep to a schedule: Adjust your body clock to the same schedule even on days off. If you work an odd-hour shift schedule, account for that in your rest hours.

        - Optimize your sleep space: Cool, dark environments are conducive to sleep. You should darken your room as much as possible or even try a sleep mask. And avoid screens in your
          bedroom. Smartphones, tablet, laptops, etc. emit blue light, which can disrupt circadian rhythms.

        - Create variety in your workday: Try varying tasks to avoid repetition overload. If you can accomplish the same goal by having multiple people work on the task intermittently, you can
          often achieve results faster and avoid mistakes.

We Can Help Refresh Your Workspace

Though we can’t make you more rested, we can make your workplace safer. A team of experts and a range of resources to support you as you develop a more efficient and safer workplace. If you want to start a safety program or boost an existing one, contact us today!

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