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Worker Fatigue’s Effect on Worker Safety and Health

            We live in a society that thrives on long work hours and irregular shifts. Many Americans are expected to spend over 40 hours of their week at work, whether they are scheduled to work days, evenings, nights, weekends, or are on an on-call basis. Extended, irregular, and consecutive shifts are expected, often leading them to put in more than the average 40-hour work week. These strenuous, inconsistent patterns often lead to Worker Fatigue. Worker Fatigue increases the risk of injuries and accidents, as well as heightened levels of stress, unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical activity, and illness.

What is Worker Fatigue?

            Fatigue is defined as extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness. Little or poor-quality sleep is often the cause of fatigue, alerting the body that a period of rest is required. Because the body is naturally wired to sleep at night, long, extended, or irregular shifts put stress on workers – physically, mentally, and emotionally. If a worker is in a state of fatigue, they are likely to be experiencing elevated levels of stress and lack of concentration.

How can Worker Fatigue Affect Worker Safety and Health?

            Worker Fatigue has a significant effect on worker safety and health. Sleepiness, irritability, decreased alertness, impaired decision-making skills, and reduced motivation, memory, and concentration are the most common effects of fatigue.

            Fatigue can cause heart disease, digestive issues, musculoskeletal disorders, depression, sleep disorders, poor eating habits, and worsening of already chronic conditions – all of which effect a worker’s overall performance.

How Can You Prevent Worker Fatigue?

            Employers can reduce Worker Fatigue by organizing schedules to allow frequent opportunities for breaks. They can adjust work environments to offer proper lighting and temperature to increase alertness and concentration. Employers can also strive to provide education and training on the hazards, symptoms, and impact of fatigue.

            To prevent Worker Fatigue, employees are responsible for promoting restful, healthy sleep for themselves. Employees should aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, ideally at the same time every day in a comfortable, cool, and dark place. If napping before work is helpful for them, they should keep the nap to roughly 45 minutes or less. It’s also important to include regular physical activity and a balanced diet into their routine.