6 Reasons Why Your Company Needs to Manage Fatigue and Impairment

There are numerous reasons why managing fatigue and impairment in your workplace is key to enhancing safety, performance, and employee morale.
Below is are the six most crucial as well as universally applicable across a broad spectrum of industies.

1. workplace safety regulations cannot include mandates for fatigue management because not all fatigue is work-related.

Although some industry-specific agencies include hours-of-service (HOS) guidelines, like in nursing and trucking, such guidelines are insufficient to effectively manage and monitor individual employees’ fatigue, especially when such fatigue is caused by circumstances unrelated to the job, such as illness or insufficient sleep. Because of this, regulatory agencies like OSHA cannot realistically impose mandates for fatigue management. Therefore, individual companies must move beyond just complying with regulations to create the safest possible workplaces.

2. Fatigue contributes to about 40% of all industrial accidents.

Given the commonness of fatigue as a contributing factor to workplace accidents, we can also conclude logically that fatigue commonly contributes to errors and productivity lapses, even without associated safety incidents. Managing and monitoring employee fatigue pays in more than just safety-related dividends, but productivity and performance ones too.

3. Shift work itself is known to contribute to fatigue.

Fatigue and non-alertness are natural states of mind that everyone experiences from time to time. Yet shift workers must often work against their bodies’ natural circadian rhythms–the daily flow between states of rest and wakefulness–especially if the shift schedule rotates day and night shifts. It is a myth that people become accustomed to working while fatigued or with accumulated sleep debt. In fact, research shows that even though fatigued people may not feel tired, they still demonstrate fatigue symptoms but do not always recognize the decline in their cognitive performance.

4. Managing fatigue and impairment risk reduces employee turnover and improves morale.

Safety-sensitive occupations can often have high turnover rates because of the nature of the work, but often also because of the organizational culture and safety climate. Employees will not stay at an employer if they feel unsafe or if their concerns about the work environment are not addressed. Conversely, monitoring and managing employees’ alertness sends the message that their states of mind are worth knowing about to keep them safe.

5. Drug tests cannot reliably detect if someone is presently intoxicated, nor can they account for all possible intoxicating substances.

The ineffectiveness of drug testing as a workplace safety measure has long been understood, given their narrow scope, high expense, and the time required to process results. Given this, any positive test result is considered a “trailing indicator”; in other words, it provides only an indication of past conditions, not present or future ones. A daily alertness test, on the other hand, can provide peace of mind to supervisors regarding their crews’ fitness for duty before they start work.

6. Fatigue and impairment management can lead to better general wellness among the workforce.

Because fatigue and impairment management provides employees insight into their fatigue and alertness levels on a day-to-day basis, it can encourage positive behavioral changes. For instance, employees who must demonstrate cognitive fitness every day are more likely, over time, to adopt healthier habits that help them mitigate their fatigue symptoms and keep alert, such as refraining from staying up too late before a morning shift, opting for more nutritious and energizing foods, or scheduling their coffee breaks in anticipation of circadian lulls when they may feel tired.

To start managing fatigue and impairment in your workplace today, request a call from a member of our fatigue management specialists to explore solutions that fit your workplace, budget, and culture.

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