Tired Employees Common in Industries Using Shift Work

October 18, 2018

More than two-thirds (69 percent) of employees are tired at work, increasing the risk of injuries and incidents on the job, according to the National Safety Council.

Many of these fatigued employees work in the construction, transportation, manufacturing and utilities industries that tend to use shift work, which commonly leads to fatigue.

A new National Safety Council report, Fatigue in Safety-Critical Industries: Impact, Risks and Recommendations, summarizes the results of two national surveys, one of employers and a second of employees.

The surveys expose a gap between how employees and employers view the risks and consequences of being tired at work. Ninety percent of employers feel the impact of fatigue on their organizations, including observing safety incidents involving tired employees and declines in productivity. However, just 72 percent of workers view being tired as a safety issue.

“We’ve been looking at the impact of fatigue in the workplace for a long time, but it is troubling to see just how affected our safety-sensitive industries are,” said Emily Whitcomb, senior program manager at NSC. “When you’re tired, you can be deadly and these industries are already at higher risk because of their safety sensitive jobs. We urge employers to address fatigue risk in their workplace so all employees can be healthy and safe.”

Fatigue is a hidden but common hazard in all workplaces, regardless of industry. In safety-critical positions, however, the consequences of being tired can be catastrophic, the NSC says. For example, mistakes on construction sites, around gas line digging areas or behind the wheel of big-rig trucks easily can lead to injuries or even death.

Other findings from the report include:

  • 97% of employers in the transportation industry feel the impact of fatigue – the highest among all safety-critical industries NSC reported on
  • Nearly all – 95% – of employers in utilities said it is unsafe to drive while tired, but just 66% of employees in that industry agreed
  • 100 of construction workers report having at least one risk factor for fatigue
  • 46% of construction workers say they work during high-risk hours, such as at night or early morning
  • Transportation industry employees who reported at least one risk factor for fatigue cited long shifts (42%) and sleep loss (48%)

Lack of sleep costs $410 billion annually in societal expenses, and fatigue has a different price tag for each employer, according to the organization. NSC developed the Fatigue Cost Calculator to help employers determine how much a drowsy workforce is affecting their bottom lines and the Fatigue Toolkit for educating their workforce.

The National Safety Council is a nonprofit organization that partners with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public to improve safety.

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