January was Mental Wellness Month and a time to start new initiatives. This year, safety professionals should take a closer look at how mental health and fatigue can impact workers.
Cognitive fatigue and burnout continue to cost U.S. employers more than $130 billion a year in health-related lost productivity, the National Safety Council (NSC) states.
The NSC reports that a typical U.S. company with 1,000 employees can expect to lose more than $1 million each year to fatigue, which can often increase the workloads of other human operators. America’s workforce suffers an estimated annual cost of $136.4 billion from fatigue-related, health-related lost productive work time to employers.
With fatigue and burnout a continuing topic of conversation among healthcare and safety professionals, researchers and safety organizations, now is the time to take steps to integrate new technology among your workforce in an effort to solve what seems to be such a simple problem with potentially dire consequences.
OSHA cites “decreased alertness” because of cognitive fatigue as a direct factor in disasters such as the 2005 Texas City BP oil refinery explosion, the 2009 Colgan Air Crash, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.
Fatigued workers experience increased sleep problems and risk for injury, illness and increased time off in relation to the number of hours they work per week, according to the agency.
“While many people experience short-term symptoms of burnout due to specific circumstances, it is important to address these feelings instead of hoping they go away,” said Dean Aslinia, Ph.D., LPC-S, NCC, University of Phoenix’s counseling/mental health counseling program chair. “The data suggests that many employees are not taking their mental wellness as seriously as their physical health. Ignoring our mental health and symptoms of burnout not only affects job performance and relationships, it can also have a lasting impact on one’s physical health.”
A three-year study funded by the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) foundation examined the benefits of wearables in the workplace. Twenty-five participants wore non-obtrusive wrist, hip and ankle sensors while completing three tasks commonly performed by manufacturing workers – assembly, stocking and remaining in a static or flexed position.
The organization reports the study demonstrated that meaningful safety data can be collected by an employer in a cost-effective manner without interfering with a worker’s daily routine.
“Fatigue is a hidden danger in the workplace, but now we’ve tackled the measurement and modeling of fatigue through wearable sensors, incorporating big data analytics and safety,” said Dr. Lora Cavuoto, a University of Buffalo professor who led the research along with Dr. Fadel Megahed at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University of Ohio.
“Information is power, so knowing when, where and how fatigue impacts worker safety is critical. You can’t identify solutions until you pinpoint the problems,” Cavuoto added.
With the plethora of recent research released before the end of January 2019, it’s no surprise that the adoption of safety technology will become increasingly important in the near future.
The data from various sources has spoken, and the proven benefits of wearables and other devices should be recognized from the top down. With so much information at your fingertips, now is the time to go to leadership and show them the results.