Preventing Fatigue on the Jobsite Key to Worker Safety

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According to a survey of employers and workers by the National Safety Council last year, 69% of workers – many of whom work in safety-critical industries, such as construction – are tired at work, increasing the risk of injuries and accidents on the job. As the days get shorter and colder, home builders should consider proactive steps to combat fatigue on the jobsite. Fatigue is a hidden but common hazard in all workplaces. In safety-critical positions, the consequences of being tired can be catastrophic. For example, mistakes on construction sites, like when climbing or working on ladders or driving trucks, can easily lead to injuries or even death. Fatigue risk factors that affect construction workers include the physical demands of the job, long commutes to jobsites, early-morning or late evening work and working 10-hour or longer shifts. The NSC survey revealed a gap between how employees and employers view the risks of fatigue at work: 90% of employers feel the impact of fatigue on their organizations, including observing safety incidents involving tired employees, but just 72% of workers view being tired as a safety issue. OSHA thinks jobsite fatigue is an issue and has guidelines for employers to prevent fatigue among workers. Employers can reduce the risk of worker fatigue in the workplace by:
  • Examining staffing issues such as workload, work hours, understaffing and worker absences, scheduled and unscheduled, which can contribute to worker fatigue.
  • Arranging schedules to allow frequent opportunities for rest breaks and nighttime sleep.
  • Making adjustments to the work environment such as lighting, temperature and physical surroundings to increase alertness.
  • Providing worker education and training addressing the hazards of worker fatigue, the symptoms of worker fatigue, the impact of fatigue on health and relationships, adequate quality and quantity of sleep and the importance of diet, exercise and stress management strategies to minimize the adverse effects of fatigue.
  • Consider implementing a Fatigue Risk Management Plan under which, like other risk factors, fatigue can be managed.
For their part, workers can also make sure they are sleeping 7-9 hours daily without disruptions, and if naps are necessary, make sure they are either less than 45 minutes or greater than two hours to allow for a complete sleep cycle. For any questions about jobsite safety, contact Rob Matuga.  

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