Workplace accidents are inevitable, just as the saying goes, “to err is human”. Machines become faulty over time and human error plays a role in mistakes, which lead to mishaps. However, many accidents are avoidable when employees are alert, focused and fully engaged while performing tasks. In order for employees to operate at full capacity and avoid fatigue accidents in the workplace, it is important that they obtain sufficient quality sleep. Lack of sleep results in fatigue and fatigue decreases alertness, diminishes focus, and impairs cognitive and behavioral function that is essential to coherent decision making, thus, leading to workplace accidents. By combatting fatigue with healthy, continuous and regular sleep, companies benefit from reduced fatigue accidents in the workplace and gain a more engaged, resilient workforce.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FATIGUE & INTOXICATION ON PERFORMANCE
While it’s well known that alcohol intoxication impairs key decision making and increases the risk of accidents, the relationship between fatigue and workplace accidents is not as readily understood. Research conducted at Penn State University indicates that individuals who extend wake periods beyond 15 hours experience deteriorating mental and physical abilities. In a separate study, the impairment associated with wake beyond 15 hours was shown to be equivalent to a 0.04 blood alcohol level. What’s more, the longer the wake period, the greater the detriment in physical and mental faculties. Clearly, employers do not allow employees to show up to work intoxicated. Given the scientific data, it is imperative that employers be aware of the equivalent risks associated with a fatigued workforce and the higher risk of workplace accidents that stem from it. It’s important to note that shift workers are the most inclined to extend their wake hours past optimal windows due to the fact that shift rotations are known to heavily interfere with circadian rhythms. This fact makes shift-workers in particular much more prone to falling asleep on the job, as well as to physical, mental and emotional health problems.
THE IMPACT OF FATIGUE
Fatigue accidents in the workplace add up to costly mistakes. Employees suffering from fatigue are 2.9x more likely to be involved in a job-related workplace accident. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a number of non-fatal fatigue accidents in the workplace amounted to 107 out of every 10,000 employees in 2014. These fatigue accidents in the workplace include slips, falls, and work-related illnesses. That same year, there were also just under 4700 workplace-related deaths. Though human error cannot be eliminated completely, it can be reduced by addressing the root causes of fatigue including poor sleep.
THE DANGERS OF FATIGUE
For those suffering from sleep-related fatigue, quick fixes are often initially sought to address the problem. Caffeine provides temporary spurts of clarity and promises new, albeit short-lived, energy. But many times these short-term fixes mask a more serious reality. Currently, 45% of the U.S. population report having sleep problems on any given night, and these same individuals are reporting to work fatigued on a regular basis. Sleep deprivation, a central contributor to fatigue, impacts an employee’s ability to remain safe and productive, which therefore increases the amount of fatigue accidents in the workplace. In addition, sleep impaired individuals have difficulty thinking creatively or handling complex business problems.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Implementing a population sleep health solution, such as the telehealth programs offered by FusionHealth, can help employers enhance regular sleep cycles amongst the workforce and help employees achieve higher quality sleep for daily restoration and the resultant performance benefits. FusionHealth is helping companies address fatigue to drastically reduce fatigue accidents by up to 55% annually. Working with FusionHealth, companies are addressing their exposure to the everyday risk of fatigue by revitalizing the most important asset of all, human performance.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics
3. Occupational and Environmental Medicine
4. Circadian Technologies