ASSP Foundation Releases Fatigue Report

"By setting parameters, we identified behavioral changes in how people conduct work over time," said Dr. Lora Cavuoto, the project's principal investigator. "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 American Society of Safety Professionals Foundation has released a fatigue research report that demonstrates the value of wearable technology in the workplace, with the foundation also encouraging employers to make a New Year's resolution to monitor the fatigue levels of their workers in order to reduce injuries and increase productivity. The three-year 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 and involved researchers from Auburn University and the University of Dayton.

The study ended in December.

"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," said Cavuoto, principal investigator on the project. "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."

Funded by the foundation, the research involved 25 participants wearing unobtrusive 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," said Cavuoto. "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 researchers noted that ankles and feet, the lower back, and eyes were reported to be frequently affected body parts, and a lack of sleep, work stress, and shift schedules were leading selected causes for fatigue. To deal with fatigue, respondents reported they drink caffeinated beverages, stretch or do exercises, and talk with co-workers.

The fatigue research report is one of many research initiatives expected over the next several years in support of ASSP's goal to elevate occupational safety and health worldwide. A repository of the research papers and code resulting from the project is available at the team's ResearchGate project folder.

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