We’re all tired. There are so many things weighing on us — taking on more tasks and trying to keep up at work when there are not enough workers to get everything done, continuous pressure to maintain levels of service when supplies are delayed and staffing is short, COVID, Daylight Savings time, we’re approaching one of the busiest times of the year in the school calendar, you have stuff at home that’s not getting done, and on and on. When you get tired, mistakes and accidents happen.
Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep in every 24 hours to feel well rested and without it, a sleep debt is built up. This debt may result in impaired performance, reduced alertness and higher levels of sleepiness and fatigue. A sleep debt can only be repaid with restful sleep. Fatigue contributes to accidents by impairing performance and in extreme cases causing people to fall asleep. Fatigue related “micro sleeps” are very hard to predict or prevent and can place the individual and others at risk.
According to the National Safety Council, more than 43% of workers are sleep-deprived, and fatigued worker productivity costs employers $1,200 to $3,100 per employee annually. Employees on rotating shifts are particularly vulnerable because they cannot adapt their “body clocks” to an alternative sleep pattern.
Fatigue Management Programs
More and more companies are including fatigue management in their list of safety programs. For major manufacturers and industrial facilities that use contractor pre-qualification services like ISNetworld, Fatigue Management Programs are a requirement for contractors.
Fatigue Management Programs can be simple. They can line out the responsibilities of supervisors, employees and the company. They also discuss the hazards of fatigue, provide a overview of risk controls and make a plan for training.
Even if you don’t want to create a formal Fatigue Management Program, you still may want to consider including safety sessions about it to your teams. Here are some elements you can include in your training:
Signs and Effects of Fatigue
Signs of fatigue include long eye blinks, repeated yawning, frequent blinking, bloodshot eyes, poor reaction time, slow speech, loss of energy, and an inability to concentrate.
Fatigue can result in a lack of attention, difficulty following instructions, reduced ability to think clearly, and slower response to changing circumstances.
Chronic fatigue can also lead to many different long term health issues such as high blood pressure, increased risk for diabetes and heart disease, weakened immunity, poor balance, mood changes and memory issues.
What Your Company Can Do: Risk Controls to Consider
Rest, of course, is the most important control measure for managing fatigue. For companies, consider the following:
- Is a ten hour or longer break between work shifts provided?
- Are safety critical tasks planned during “circadian low” hours, 2am-6am and 2pm- 4pm?
- Are complex tasks planned on the first or final shift of a nightshift work cycle?
- Does the break between work shifts provide a sleep opportunity of 7 or more hours of continuous sleep?
- Is a minimum of one break provided between each 4 hours of work with one break of sufficient length to have a meal (i.e. 30 minutes)?
- Are more frequent short breaks allowed during strenuous activities?
- Are on-call responsibilities limited?
- Is ready access to drinking water provided?
- Do Call-Out/On Call schedules provide for adequate rest before returning to a regular work shift?
What the Worker Can Do: Combating Fatigue
- Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule — if you’re sleeping more on days off, you’re not sleeping enough on work days. Try to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time per day, even on the weekends.
- Try to get a minimum of 7 hours per night
- Don’t eat big meals close to bedtime, but if you’re hungry before bed, don’t go to bed hungry as that will affect sleep too — have a healthy snack.
- Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can all affect sleep patterns
- Make your bedroom conducive to sleep — quiet, dark, not too hot or too cold
- If you have daytime sleepiness, snoring or breathing pauses, get checked out for sleep apnea
- Just like kids need a bedtime routine, so do you. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine and stick to it.
- Avoid stressful activities before bedtime and don’t associate your bedroom and sleeping with anxiety
- Don’t go to bed for sleep unless you’re truly sleepy — trying to sleep is counterproductive and can make it harder to fall asleep.
- Avoid long naps during the day that may throw off your nighttime schedule.
- Avoid blue light exposure at night (from electronic devices) – use glasses that block blue light or install an app that blocks it.
- When was the last time you changed your mattress and pillow? Are they causing pain? Upgrade your bedding every 5-8 yrs.
Working together to try to incorporate just even a few of these into our lives and work days should make a real difference in workplace health and wellness — both physically and mentally.
If you need help developing a Fatigue Management written safety program, we can help. Contact us today!