Managing Fatigue in the Workplace

Fatigued worker rest on work desk

Employers can mitigate the risk of workplace fatigue by monitoring employees for fatigue and offering necessary breaks. Workplace fatigue remains one of the biggest issues that risk managers, safety professionals, and employers face, which can reduce productivity and increase the risk of work-related accidents and injuries.

Oftentimes, fatigue results from high levels of stress, lengthy shifts, and extended periods of hard labor and strain, along with certain life circumstances. As a result, fatigue can develop as workers are unable to get the restorative sleep they need to thrive. Although the average person requires a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night, the Centers for Disease Control found that only two-thirds of people get that amount of sleep on a nightly basis.

However, there are ways employers can take steps to reduce the risk of fatigue among workers and maintain a safer and more productive workplace.

How Worker Fatigue Has Developed Into a Bigger Issue

Although fatigue in the workplace has been an issue for many years, more recent research and data have illuminated this problem and given it more attention in an effort to eliminate it. For example, the National Safety Council found that around 43% of American workers experience a degree of worker fatigue, costing employers upwards of $136 billion annually due to significant decreases in productivity.

2020 saw a considerable surge in workplace fatigue due to several factors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses shut down. As of 2021, many have opened up and have attempted to compensate for lost business by rapidly increasing productivity. In the process, workers are facing longer work hours along with certain life circumstances such as the increased risk of illness and the need for social distancing, all of which can contribute to worker fatigue.

Added general stress due to longer hours and the risks revolving around the pandemic has also led to increased fatigue. Regardless of the cause, this fatigue is likely to lead to a higher rate of accidents and subsequent injuries.

How Fatigue Affects Workers’ Performance

Workers experiencing fatigue tend to showcase symptoms and signs that indicate a lack of sleep, including decreased cognitive function, compromised fine motor skills and coordination, emotional distress in the form of anxiety, depression, or aggression, and even physical health issues such as hypertension and heart disease.

Many jobs that require long hours, such as truck driving, make fatigue almost an inevitability. Other jobs can cause strain that leads to fatigue over time through repetitive and hard labor. Additionally, many medical professionals who tend to patients on a regular basis and are almost always on call often experience fatigue. This can have consequences for both the medical professionals and their patients.

However, there are certain ways to mitigate the risks of fatigue. One such development is known as fatigue identification software. Many employers are beginning to use this technology to monitor for fatigue and determine when breaks are ideal.

What Is Fatigue Identification Software?

There are technological tools that employers can use to eliminate fatigue in the workplace and ensure consistent productivity and safety. Fatigue identification software helps identify fatigue and establishes when workers should take breaks.

The software can identify fatigue using different methods. One type of software, AlertMeter, conducts a cognitive test that employees take using mobile devices. Based on their reaction time while performing a given task, AlertMeter sends this information to safety managers who can then determine whether the employee needs a break. Other software is designed to detect visual signs of fatigue through facial recognition, which is valuable for shipping and transportation companies with drivers whose fatigue could lead to serious motor vehicle accidents.

With the help of this technology and attentive safety managers and employers, workplaces and employees can benefit from reduced instances of fatigue. If employees experience fatigue less frequently, companies can see increased productivity levels while minimizing the risk of accidents and injuries.

Improving Workplace Safety and Bottom Lines with Fatigue Monitoring Solutions

Through the implementation of fatigue identification systems, businesses will more effectively be able to monitor for any signs of fatigue in workers. Supervisors can then receive a notification when an employee is fatigued and decide when to give fatigued employees breaks as needed, even if employees don’t perceive themselves as fatigued.

Companies like Caterpillar have already begun integrating fatigue monitoring systems into their operations, with a combination of monitoring and data tracking software designed to keep workers safer while reducing the costs of accidents.

If employers can take the steps needed to manage fatigue in the workplace, they’ll be able to improve their overall bottom line while keeping workers safe. This can make for a happier and healthier workplace while avoiding workers’ compensation claims. Ultimately, it pays to have systems in place to prevent workplace fatigue.