There seems to be a disconnect when it comes to understanding and pinpointing workplace fatigue. First off, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with a worker feeling tired after not getting enough sleep the night before. It’s more of a long-term problem that can develop over time and often goes under the radar until it is too late.
Even for workers who received adequate sleep the night before, worker fatigue can be caused by drawn-out, repetitive tasks. It can manifest itself through mental and physical exhaustion, poor job performance, mood changes, poor concentration, and aches and pains.
Poor sleep can still be part of the equation. Safety + Health Magazine reports about 38 percent of American workers receive less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night. For some, receiving adequate sleep is impossible – especially workers who suffer from sleep apnea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or are parents of young children.
Monitoring worker performance
Workplace fatigue can impact anyone. In order to combat this growing problem, employers must explore ways to monitor workers for fatigue and offer breaks and other accommodations accordingly. A three-year study conducted by Dr. Lora Cavuoto at the University of Buffalo and Dr. Fadel Megahed at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University of Ohio found that measuring a worker’s performance is a good place to start.
The study included 25 participants who performed three manufacturing tasks for three hours at a time. This included assembling, stocking, and remaining in a static or flexed position for a long period of time. The participants were monitored through non-obtrusive wrist, hip and ankle sensors which measured their performance within each three-hour period. On average, participants began experiencing fatigue by the third hour.
“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,” Cavuoto said.
Injured on the job? Don’t wait to take action.
When fatigue starts to set in, workers may be more likely to cut corners, make clumsy mistakes, or ignore standard safety procedures. If they aren’t given the opportunity to take breaks when needed, serious accidents can occur, and other workers can be harmed.
If you were injured on the job due to fatigue, you may be out of work for an extensive period. Your recovery may require x-rays, pain medication, months of physical therapy, and even surgery. You should always report your injury to your employer immediately and seek medical help.