Almost every employee has experienced it. After what feels like a long day, you take another look at the clock, only to discover you have a few more hours to go. You strive to perform your job functions to the best of your ability, but your mind is sluggish, your body tired and you're exerting every ounce of energy just to make it to the end of your shift.
Fatigue can happen to anyone, but some workers are more at risk than others. It's not exactly the same as being tired or feeling like you need to sleep. It manifests through physical, mental, emotion and social impairments. Fatigued workers may need to exert more energy to perform a task. And when they make mistakes, workplace accidents can happen.
What causes workplace fatigue?
The primary cause of fatigue is sleep loss, which nearly four out of ten workers suffer from, according to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The study also found that workers who slept less than five hours had an injury rate of 7.89 per 100 workers. Those who slept about seven hours had an injury rate of 2.27 per 100 workers.
Sleep loss is often caused by:
- Insomnia: Anyone can suffer from insomnia on any given night, especially during stressful times when it can be difficult to keep the mind at ease. For some people, insomnia is a chronic disorder.
- Sleep apnea: Excessive snoring and difficulty breathing can make it difficult for those diagnosed with sleep apnea to get a good night's rest.
- Restless leg syndrome: The irresistible urge to move limbs can disrupt normal sleep patterns. While this disorder is coined "restless leg syndrome," it also applies to the arms.
- Narcolepsy: Those suffer from narcolepsy may fall asleep at times that don't make sense. This can even happen during loud, stimulating events. Additionally, this disorder can affect the mind and body's normal sleep pattern.
Who is primarily at risk?
Those at risk of workplace fatigue usually include:
- Shift workers who work overnight or rotating shifts.
- Workers who perform tedious tasks for lengthy periods.
- Workers who sleep less than seven hours per night
- Workers with untreated sleep disorders.
- Workers who are parents or caregivers of young children.
- Workers who take medications that can affect sleep.
Shift workers: 15 percent of full-time workers in the United States work on shifts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of these workers suffer from chronic sleep-loss. This is primarily due to a disruption in the body's circadian rhythm, the biological clock that programs your time of sleepiness and wakefulness.
Circadian rhythms: the body and mind's physical, mental and behavioral cycle that can change throughout a 24-hour period. Chronic disruptions to this cycle can result in memory loss, inability to concentrate, depression, diabetes and cardiovascular problems. These problems can have a profound impact on a worker's ability to perform his or her job safely.
Long-duration tasks: Performing the same task repeatedly for a number of hours can result in fatigue. Workers may eventually require more energy to keep up with the pace of their work environment. The more energy that tired workers exert, the more tired they become. Over time, a loss of concentration and speed can be a recipe for disaster in any work place.
Sleep deprivation: Loss of sleep doesn't just apply to shift workers. Even employees who work normal times can suffer from sleep deprivation. Sleeping less than seven hours per night can result in workplace fatigue.
Whether you were injured by an accident caused by your own fatigue or injured by a fatigued worker, you may be eligible for workers' compensation. Your accident could be the result of your employer demanding excess hours. Or perhaps your accident could be the result of someone else's negligence.
Contact Paul McAndrew Law Firm, PLLC of Iowa and find out how we can help you.