Safety and OSHA News

43% of Americans say they’re too tired to work safely

“Fitness for duty starts with getting a good night’s sleep,” said the head of the National Safety Council. Unfortunately, an NSC survey shows a sizable percentage of U.S. workers don’t think they fit that description. 

The survey forms the basis for the first of three NSC reports. According to Fatigue in the Workplace: Causes & Consequences of Employee Fatigue, 43% say they’re too tired to work safely. Eighty-one percent of those surveyed have jobs that are at high risk for fatigue, such as driving a vehicle or working at a construction site.

The survey found 97% of Americans say they have at least one of these leading nine risk factors for fatigue:

  • working a non-day shift (17% of respondents)
  • working at night or early morning, even occasionally (41%)
  • jobs that require sustained attention or are physically or cognitively demanding (81%)
  • shifts of 10 or more hours (21%)
  • working 50 or more hours a week (22%)
  • getting less than seven hours of sleep per day (43%)
  • no rest breaks at work (10%)
  • not getting at least 12 hours off between shifts (14%), and
  • commutes of 30 minutes of longer one way (31%).

The survey also found:

  • 76% say they feel tired at work
  • 53% feel less productive, and
  • 44% have trouble focusing.

“These findings are a literal wake-up call,” said NSC president Deborah Hersman. “When we’re tired, we can put ourselves and others at risk.”

Losing two hours of sleep creates impairment equal to consuming up to three beers. An estimated 13% of workplace injuries could be attributed to fatigue, and 21% of all fatal crashes (6,400 deaths each year) are attributed to a drowsy driver. Fatigued employees are more likely to make safety-critical errors that could lead to injuries.

Workers in some regions are at higher risk than others for fatigue. The South has the highest mean number of risk factors (3.21), while the Midwest has the lowest (2.94). The Northeast and West are in between at 3.02 and 3.04 respectively.

Part two in the NSC series will be Risky Employer Practices.

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