America is tired.
Last month, I wrote about how safety technology should be used to combat fatigue in the workplace. However, that is only one slice of the fatigue risk management process.
The National Safety Council (NSC) is once again calling for employers to assess their programs, workplace environments and culture and to integrate fatigue-reducing measures into their data-driven safety systems. This couldn’t come at a better time.
America’s companies have been gracing headlines with what is being called “burnout culture.”
“Don’t stop when you’re tired; stop when you’re done,” proclaimed the carved cucumbers in a pitcher of water at WeWork, a company that provides shared technology workplaces.
Bring a productive, dedicated worker is admirable, but at what point does the individual begin to feel the effects?
The NSC reports that 90% of America’s employers have seen the impact of fatigue on its workers. The number of hours American workers have put in has steadily increased since the 70s.
While the United States does not top the number of hours worked per year when ranked globally, the laws that govern paid sick days and legally-mandated annual leave are non-existent.
What does this mean? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been a 400% increase in productivity among American workers since 1950, yet employees are just not taking time off, leading to burnout, fatigue and possibly more injuries.
In a nutshell, America’s adherence to a “Hustle Hard” culture is hurting its very own workers, and safety professionals should implement fatigue risk management systems to mitigate it.
An interruption of a worker’s Circadian cycle, or internal clock, increases the risk for safety incidents to occur. Take a look at night-shift workers who report 30% more incidents versus those who work the standard 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day. The facts are clear: a tired mind is more likely to take shortcuts, make poor decisions and be less alert.
In addition, the NSC states that changes in a person’s sleep-wake cycle also could lead to health problems such as depression, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The Campbell Institute states that an effective fatigue management policy includes limits on work hours as well as minimum requirements for off-duty and recovery rest periods, along with:
- Regular review of overtime schedules;
- Shared responsibilities for managing fatigue, such as
- Communication from the organization and the employee assuming responsibility for arriving fit for duty;
- Fatigue reporting system for employees;
- Procedures to determine whether fatigue played a role in an incident;
- Fatigue management training and education for employees and management;
- Provision of sleep disorder information and management;
- Continuous improvement process for managing fatigue risk.
Emily Whitcomb, NSC’s senior program manager for fatigue initiatives, said it perfectly: “In our 24/7 world, too many employees are running on empty. Employees are an organization’s greatest asset, and addressing fatigue in workplaces will help eliminate preventable deaths and injuries.”