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Using Technology To Measure Worker Fatigue

Using Technology To Measure Manufacturing Worker Fatigue

Jan. 4, 2019
According to the National Safety Council, fatigue costs U.S. employers more than $130 billion a year in health-related lost productivity.

The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) Foundation is encouraging employers to make a New Year’s resolution to monitor the fatigue levels of its workers to reduce injuries.

The organization released a report on Jan 3, based on a three-year study, which demonstrated how to capture a worker’s safety performance and translate the data into personal fatigue levels. The study was led by Dr. Lora Cavuoto at the University at Buffalo and Dr. Fadel Megahed at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University of Ohio. The project also involved researchers from Auburn University and the University of Dayton

“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 engineering,” Cavuoto said. “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.”

According to the National Safety Council, fatigue costs U.S. employers more than $130 billion a year in health-related lost productivity.

In addition, more than 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. 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. This phenomenon has been reported in advanced manufacturing, warehousing, truck driving, construction and other occupations.

The research funded by the ASSP Foundation involved 25 participants wearing 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. Each person worked in three-hour increments. 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.

“By setting parameters, we identified behavioral changes in how people conduct work over time,” Cavuoto said. “For example, we saw how workers performed the same task in the first hour as compared to the third hour when fatigue became a factor. Wearable technology can uncover precursors to larger problems and help establish safety interventions that may call for scheduled breaks, posture adjustments or vitamin supplements that help the body.”

The ASSP believe this study is the first step in creating a comprehensive framework that can identify research-supported interventions that protect workers from injuries caused by being tired on the job.

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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