October 2, 2018

National Safety Council Issues Report on Workplace Fatigue

The National Safety Council released a series of comprehensive reports on fatigue in the workplace, covering causes, consequences, risky employer practices, and recommendations to reduce potential accidents. As clinical research found that up to 13% of workplace injuries can be attributed to fatigue, the information in this report could be useful in improving workplace safety.

The Council conducted two surveys, one of 2,010 working adults, and one of 504 human resource decision makers responsible for health, safety and shift scheduling. Both surveys were balanced according to U.S. Census Standards by age, gender, ethnicity, and geographic region.

According to the data:

  • 10% of workers do not get a rest break
  • 14% of workers do not get sufficient time between shifts to rest
  • 17% of workers work a non-day shift
  • 21% of workers had to work shifts of 10 hours or longer
  • 22% of workers worked 50 hours or more per week
  • 60% of employers had no designated areas for employees to rest

Factors such as these can increase the likelihood of workplace fatigue. A reported 27% of workers unintentionally fell asleep on the job at one point, and increased fatigue can of course lead to an increased likelihood of workplace accidents.

Furthermore, workplace fatigue contributes to a loss in productivity; among employers surveyed, the data found that 47% of employers experienced decreased productivity due to fatigue, and that a typical employer of 1,000 employees loses an average $1 million a year to fatigue-related issues.

Among their recommendations to reduce fatigue in the workplace, the Council suggested that employers strategically schedule their employee shifts to avoid fatiguing their workers. This included giving employees a minimum of 12 hours between shifts to rest, avoiding excessive shift changes so that employees do not constantly have to adjust their sleep schedule, and no more than four nightshifts in a row.

Nightshifts were especially called out, as clinical research has found that nightshift workers are three times more likely to be injured on the job. The Council also suggested letting workers switch tasks throughout a shift when possible to avoid hours of monotonous repetition that can cause sleepiness, allowing certain nightshift employees to take brief naps, opening dialogues on fatigue with five-minute safety talks, and creating fatigue risk management systems of policies, practices, and assessments to minimize fatigue.

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