Combating Worker Fatigue with a Fatigue Management Plan

fatigue management plan

There is a silent killer in workplaces across America and everyone is a possible victim to it: fatigue. Fatigue negatively affects almost 40% of all workers, decreasing concentration and memory function, and increasing the difficulty of performing tasks.

In fact, sleep deprivation impairs cognitive abilities as much as alcohol does, with moderate sleep deprivation (17 to 19 hours of going without sleep) causing people to perform as badly as someone who has a 0.05% blood alcohol concentration level.

One study even claims that sleep deprivation and the impending fatigue that accompanies it impairs employee judgment and their ability to do a good job with their work.

With fatigue impacting employee performance this much, it is no surprise that sleep deprivation is one of the major causes of workplace accidents. Fatigue puts the welfare of both the employee and the business at risk, making it necessary to design a sustainable fatigue management plan that can address sleep deprivation and the over-exhaustion of the workers at the root of the problem.  

Understanding Worker Fatigue

There are many causes of employee fatigue, including long or unusual shifts that disrupt the body clock, sleep loss, long commutes or frequent long trips, extreme temperatures at work, and extensive or excessive physical and mental activity.

Part of an effective fatigue management policy is identifying whether or not employees are subjected to conditions that make them more vulnerable to fatigue. Some of the most at-risk employees are graveyard shift workers, medical professionals, emergency service workers, restaurant workers, traveling workers, firefighters, and those who work in the hospitality industry, oil field, and with the police and the military.

Fatigue appears in many forms and symptoms can range wildly, but employees and employers must be wary of telltale signs including irritability, distractedness, poor memory, slower reaction, lack of motivation, frequent headaches, loss of appetite, and even gastrointestinal problems (i.e. heartburn, loose bowel movement).

Fatigue Management Plan: Tips

One key point to remember when designing a fatigue management plan is to understand that fatigue is an ongoing condition and must be dealt with using a sustainable and long-term solution. Here are some things you can do to alleviate stressors at work:

1. Plot sustainable work schedules.

Limit overtime and extended work hours and design a schedule that allows your workers adequate amounts of sleep.

2. Implement task rotation.

Repetitive work (i.e. factory work) is a common cause of work-related injuries. Prevent this from happening by rotating workers across different tasks.

3. Calibrate workplace temperatures.

Heat stress and cold stress are major workplace problems, alongside intolerable noise levels, inadequate ventilation, and poor lighting. Creating a conducive working environment is a key factor in implementing a successful fatigue management plan.

4. Provide professional assistance.

Work-related fatigue is as much a mental condition as it is a physical one, and its adverse effects can cause distress both within the work environment and the personal relationships of your afflicted employees. Provide professional assistance through counseling.

5. Track employees for fatigue risks.

Tracking performance factors like productivity, hours worked, absences, etc., to help monitor which of your employees are most susceptible to workplace fatigue. The sooner you identify these at-risk workers, the easier and more effective it is for you to address the problem.   

6. Provide adequate break hours.

A working lunch gives birth to stress and kills creativity. Provide longer breaks that allow your workers to eat slower and longer and enjoy their meals instead of the hurried, distracted chomping down of food most workers do during their break.

7. Invest in ergonomic furniture and implements where possible.  

Address fatigue caused by physical exhaustion by improving workplace conditions and fixtures. Prolonged standing, for instance, is the leading cause of fatigue and chronic pain in the lower extremities, affecting areas like the legs, lower spine, and knees. Fight this by investing in ergonomic implements like anti-fatigue mats. These specialized mats are designed to help the body distribute the weight and stress in the lower extremities as well as promote better blood circulation in these areas.

Your employees are the lifeblood of your business. Take care of your employees and learn more about fatigue and anti-fatigue mats with the help of NorthStar Mat Service! Contact us today at 1-800-994-9797 to speak with our consultants and get started!