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4 Dangerous Statistics You Need to Know About Fatigue in the Workplace

Michael Wilson | Jun 14, 2017

Category: Industrial

Week two of National Safety Month is all about worker fatigue. Fatigue in the workplace can have disastrous consequences, especially in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. ...

Week two of National Safety Month is all about worker fatigue. Fatigue in the workplace can have disastrous consequences, especially in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. When a worker's alertness levels are affected, the incident rate of errors dramatically increases. These costly mistakes can result in grave injuries or even death. So, if you're an employee coming to work feeling exhausted and worn out, you could be at serious risk. Keep reading to discover 4 frightening facts about workplace fatigue.

1. 38% of American Workers Get Less Than 7 hours of Sleep Per Night

This data was gathered from a 2016 study by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). It is recommended that adults get between 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep, in order to remain healthy, alert, and productive at work. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society considers 7 hours the absolute minimum. 

So what happens to Americans not receiving the recommended daily dose of Z’s? Well, to start they’re automatically more likely to be involved in a workplace safety incident which is alarming, especially within the manufacturing industry. To make matters worse their exhaustion is also probably costing their employer money. In fact, fatigue related productivity losses cost almost $2,000 per worker every year.

2. Less than 5 Hours of Sleep or Staying Awake for Over 16 Hours Isn't That Different From Being Inebriated

It's difficult to quantitate tiredness, but research says that levels of fatigue can be equated to blood alcohol levels (BAC). For instance, a study by Canada's WorkSafeBC made the following index:

  • 17 hours without sleep is comparable to a 0.05 BAC

  • 21 hours without sleep is comparable to a 0.08 BAC

  • 24 to 25 hours without sleep is comparable to a 0.10 BAC

Keep in mind; the legal limit in USA is a 0.08 BAC, meaning it's illegal to operate a vehicle. So, After being awake for +21 hours, why are some shift workers still expected to maneuver heavy machinery? Sounds like something has to change.

3. Shift Workers Report Fewer Hours of Quality Sleep Per Night

In a telephone survey carried out between 2013 and 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention interviewed 180,000 workers on their sleep patterns. The individuals who admitted to sleeping the least hours worked predominantly in jobs requiring irregular scheduling and shift work. These employments included: equipment operators (58%), railroad workers (53%), plant operators (50%), food service employees (49%), and nurses and medical aid staff (43%).

So why does it matter? In addition to safety problems, fewer hours of quality sleep per night has been linked to cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. Sleep not only has an impact on the job but to your long term health as well.

When it comes to fatigue in the workplace, night shift workers are even more at risk than employees covering the day shifts. A recent study showed the risk was 31% higher. Plus, the percentage rose to 36% after 4 night shifts in a row.

4. Injuries Occur Over Three Times More Often to Workers That Sleep Less Than 5 Hours Per Night

This data was gathered by the National Health Interview Survey and it paints a distressing picture of the effects of fatigue in the workplace. Their study analyzed the estimated rate of injury incidence per 100 American workers. They found that the 7.89 out of 100 employees who sustained injuries at work slept an average of less than 5 hours per night. However, for workers who spent 7 to 8 hours asleep, their rate of injury was only 2.27 out of 100. That's over three times less.

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