Worker Fatigue and the Cost to Your Company

Source: Wavebreak Media Ltd - 123RF

Fatigue is a hidden danger for employees and workplaces, and it has the potential to cost businesses millions of dollars a year.

Ninety percent of America’s employers have been negatively impacted by tired employees, according to a recent National Safety Council report.

Employees who miss out on crucial sleep are less focused at work and at higher risk for injury. Proactive employers can reduce the impact of fatigue on their workplace and help keep their workers safe.

According to the NSC, it has become increasingly common for American workers to report sleeping less than the recommended amount each night.

A recent national survey found that more than one-third of Americans sleep less than seven hours each night. More than one in 10 reported sleeping less than six hours.

Employees who work night or rotating shifts report more than twice the rate of missed workdays, resulting in increased absenteeism costs. While night and rotating shift structures are sometimes necessary, they have been linked to an increased risk of accidents and injuries.

The magnitude of this risk varies by industry, but in general, shifts of 10 hours or longer are consistently linked to increased risk of injury, and performance tends to diminish over the course of the shift.

Extended duration work shifts also increase the risk of injuries, accidents and errors, and motor vehicle crashes on the commute to and from work.

Fatigue greatly impacts the workplace in terms of productivity:

  • Workers who sleep fewer than six hours per night cost employers about six workdays a year in productivity.
  • Employees who sleep six to seven hours each night cost employers 3.7 workdays a year in productivity.

To avoid fatigue, make sure to:

  • Get enough sleep and provide for adequate rest between physically or cognitively demanding activities;
  • Talk to your doctor about getting screened for sleeping disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea;
  • Align your natural body clock with your work schedule; some people who regularly fly through different time zones, for example, use melatonin to reset their circadian rhythms;
  • If you work the night shift, try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule even on your days off, and be sure to use blackout curtains to keep your bedroom dark; and
  • Instead of tossing and turning, give this sleep habits assessment tool a try and find out what’s keeping you awake; your answer is likely to differ greatly from your colleague or neighbor.

To address this common workplace issue, the National Safety Council is holding a Workplace Fatigue Conference Feb. 20-21, in Seattle, WA.

Topics will include:

  • Fatigue Risk Management;
  • Workplace Sleep Health Programs;
  • Shift work: Best Practices; and
  • Enhancing Workplace Safety, Health, and Performance.