Employers may face more restrictions in how they schedule workers now that unions and OSHA are paying more attention to employee fatigue.
Unions are increasingly negotiating work hours, according to participants in a meeting recently sponsored by the Greater Houston Labor and Employment Relations Association.
Example: Employees at Dow Chemical in Freeport, TX, recently negotiated a fatigue standard in their new labor contract. Under the new agreement:
- employees who work three consecutive 16-hour days must receive a 24-hour break, and
- employees on regular shifts must get a 48-hour break if they work 21 days in a row.
A Dow representative says the purpose of the policy is to make sure the safety of employees, facilities and the community aren’t adversely affected because of fatigue caused by excessive work hours.
A union representative at the Houston meeting said one reason why worker fatigue isn’t addressed more is because OSHA doesn’t have a fatigue standard and it hasn’t used the General Duty Clause to penalize companies who require employees to work until they’re fatigued.
OSHA disagrees. In a statement to the Houston Chronicle, the agency said, “OSHA is very concerned about workplace fatigue and the effect it can have on workplace safety. We are prepared to cite employers when we discover situations in which the health and safety of workers is put at risk because of long hours.”
Continental Airlines allows pilots to call in and report they’re too fatigued to fly. Continental’s director for labor relations, Jocelyn LaBove, said some of the responsibility to stay rested lies with individual employees.
What’s the best way for companies to make sure their employees aren’t too tired to work safely? Let us know what you think in the Comments Box below.