The Effects of Fatigue on Worker Safety

The Effects of Fatigue on Worker Safety

When workers are fatigued, it can put them and others at risk.

Fatigue has the potential to affect everyone.

From night shift workers to doctors and nurses, many professionals are exposed to factors that can lead to fatigue. In the workplace, factors like stress, demanding tasks, heat and irregular schedules all contribute to fatigue, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

When a worker is fatigued, it can lead to less concentration, reduced reaction times and impaired judgement, NIOSH says. It can also put workers, co-workers and employers at more risk for accidents, such as in the case of an incident in Texas.

On March 23, 2005, at BP Texas City Refinery in Texas City, Texas, an explosion and fire occurred, leading to the death of 15 people and the injury of 180 more. According to the Investigation Report by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, it also cost more than $1.5 billion dollars in financial loss.

Although there were many factors involved in the incident, one “likely” factor listed in the report was fatigue. Four operators were working multiple consecutive days, one for 29 days (who experienced “acute sleep loss and cumulative sleep debt”), one for 33 days, one 37 and one 31. All of these workers were also working 12-hour shifts, the report says.

“…Operator fatigue likely contributed to the incident by impairing operator performance,” the report says.

“Evidence suggests that the operators’ fatigue degraded their judgment and problem-solving skills, hindering their ability to determine that the tower was overfilling,” the report later said.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), about 13 percent of injuries in the workplace involve fatigue. Reducing the potential for worker fatigue is essential for everyone involved. There are steps employees and employers can follow to mitigate the risks associated with fatigue.

In order to be well rested, workers should make sure they sleep at least seven hours, OSHA says. If workers need a nap before work, the nap should fall between a certain time period, less than 45 minutes or greater than two hours, for the body’s sleep/wake cycle to be complete. Night shift workers can take additional precautions, ensuring that their sleep cycle was at least eight hours prior to their shift. Factors like diet and exercise can also aid in sleep.

As an employer, there are many changes that can be made to decrease worker fatigue. Employers can change schedules and staffing to ensure every worker has time to rest. They can also make physical changes such as changing lights to “increase alertness,” OSHA says.

Another great step to reduce fatigue is to educate employees. The NSC has numerous reports and resources on fatigue, including Fatigue in the Workplace: Causes & Consequences of Employee Fatigue and posters for your place of work. NSC also has resources for employers.

Download Center

  • OSHA Recordkeeping Guide

    In case you missed it, OSHA recently initiated an enforcement program to identify employers who fail to electronically submit Form 300A recordkeeping data to the agency. When it comes to OSHA recordkeeping, there are always questions regarding the requirements and ins and outs. This guide is here to help! We’ll explain reporting, recording, and online reporting requirements in detail.

  • Incident Investigations Guide

    If your organization has experienced an incident resulting in a fatality, injury, illness, environmental exposure, property damage, or even a quality issue, it’s important to perform an incident investigation to determine how this happened and learn what you can do to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps of performing an incident investigation.

  • Lone Worker Guide

    Lone workers exist in every industry and include individuals such as contractors, self-employed people, and those who work off-site or outside normal hours. These employees are at increased risk for unaddressed workplace accidents or emergencies, inadequate rest and breaks, physical violence, and more. To learn more about lone worker risks and solutions, download this informative guide.

  • Job Hazard Analysis Guide

    This guide includes details on how to conduct a thorough Job Hazard Analysis, and it's based directly on an OSHA publication for conducting JHAs. Download the guide to learn how to identify potential hazards associated with each task of a job and set controls to mitigate hazard risks.

  • The Basics of Incident Investigations Webinar

    Without a proper incident investigation, it becomes difficult to take preventative measures and implement corrective actions. Watch this on-demand webinar for a step-by-step process of a basic incident investigation, how to document your incident investigation findings and analyze incident data, and more. 

  • Vector Solutions

Featured Whitepaper

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - October 2022

    October 2022

    Featuring:

    • FACILITY SAFETY
      Here's Why Constant Bending Can Be Troublesome
    • INDUSTRIAL HYGIENE
      How Artificial Intelligence in Revolutionizing Jobs
    • PPE: RESPIRATORY PROTECTION
      Choosing the Right Respiratory Protection
    • WINTER HAZARDS
      Managing Cold Stress with the Proper PPE
    View This Issue