Irregular and extended work shifts often leave employees with poor quality or too little sleep. Your body’s circadian rhythm regulates the sleep and wake cycle which naturally is programmed for sleeping during nighttime hours. When you work overnight or very long hours, fatigue and stress set in over time, which is a risk factor for workplace injuries. Understanding the signs of workers fatigue and risk factors can promote well-being and help prevent accidents.
Research shows that working 12 hours per day is associated with a 37% increased risk in injury. And, workplace accident rates are 30% higher during night shifts compared to day shifts. Given these statistics, it's no surprise that worker fatigue is most common among healthcare providers, transportation workers, first responders, firefighters, police officers, military personnel, construction workers, factory and distribution workers, service and hospitality workers and many others.
The Signs of Workplace Fatigue
Tiredness and lack of energy are obvious signs of fatigue but fatigue can have a profound effect on the body and your ability to focus, concentrate and make good decisions. Some of the signs of workplace fatigue include headache, irritability, body aches, difficulty making decisions and concentrate. Over time fatigue causes serious medical conditions such as:
- Heart disease
- Stomach and GI problems
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Reproductive problems
- Sleep disorders
- Lack of nutrition/obesity
- Worsening of existing chronic diseases such as diabetes and epilepsy
Worker Fatigue Accidents
Worker fatigue has been cited as the root cause of some of the deadliest workplace accidents, such as the BP oil refinery explosion in 2005 and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. One of the root causes of those incidents was worker fatigue and inattentiveness during the overnight hours. Work involving hazardous chemicals or other materials and the operation of heavy machinery can be particularly risky for workplace injury, especially during the evening and overnight hours. Worker fatigue among healthcare workers is linked to medical errors and other compromised medical care.
Preventing Worker Fatigue
For employers, preventing worker fatigue should be an important part of your workplace safety plan. In many industries , its important for employers to adopt a Fatigue Risk Management Program. For workers, experts offer some suggestions to prevent fatigue:
- Sleep for 7-9 hours daily without disruptions.
- Try to sleep at the same time every day.
- Avoid drinks with caffeine prior to bedtime to improve sleep quality.
- Before an evening or night shift, make sure that sleep has occurred within the last 8 hours before going to work.
- If napping before work, make sure that the duration is less than 45 minutes or greater than 2 hours to allow for a complete sleep/wake cycle.
- Create a sleeping environment that is comfortable, cool, dark and quiet.
- Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
- If you are struggling with chronic fatigue or quality sleep, talk to your doctor.
What to Do if You’re Injured at Work
If you’ve been injured at work or are suffering an illness or condition because of work, you could be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, which cover medical bills and pay for lost wages while you recuperate. While the process of applying for benefits may seem straight-forward, it does not necessarily guarantee that you will be compensated fairly. At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, we are dedicated to assisting clients throughout New Jersey and New York with their workers’ compensation cases. Our attorneys have years of experience and the extensive resources you need to secure a fair case result. Contact us today for a free consultation.