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Fatigue Safety Toolbox Talk

Fatigue can be a serious safety hazard. In this toolbox talk, learn tips for preventing and managing fatigue in the workplace.

Fatigue at Work Safety Talk

While at work you are responsible for the safety of yourself as well as the safety of your coworkers and others around you. Being tired on the job is a huge problem for workers. If you can not fully function and perform your job duties correctly you are putting yourself and your coworkers at risk for injury.

In the construction field, workers with no sleep can make crucial mistakes and cause serious injuries with machines as well as tools. This is why it is important to know the causes and signs of fatigue as well as how to prevent it.

What Is Fatigue?

Fatigue is defined as extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness. In simple terms, it is the feeling of being tired or exhausted. Fatigue can leave workers performing at lower levels and exposes them to a higher risk of injury. It is important to prevent fatigue while on the job and to keep everyone safe.

Fatigue in the Workplace Statistics

Fatigue can have disastrous consequences in the workplace, especially in the construction, industrial, and manufacturing sectors. When a worker's alertness level is affected, the incident rate of errors dramatically increases and these mistakes can result in injuries or even death. Some frightening statistics about workplace fatigue are as follows:

  • 38% of workers get less than 7 hours of sleep a night. It is recommended that adults get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

  • Being awake for over 16 hours or getting less than 5 hours of sleep at night is the same as being intoxicated. Some levels of fatigue can be equated to blood alcohol levels. For instance, 17 hours with no sleep is comparable to a 0.05 BAC.

  • Injuries occur over three times more often in workers that have less than 5 hours of sleep per night. A study estimated that the rate of injury is 7.89 out of 100 employees who sustained injuries at work slept less than 5 hours.

  • A cost of $139 billion a year to employers in health-related lost productivity of their business due to fatigue. Companies and businesses are losing money due to the workers being tired.

Causes of Fatigue

Fatigue at work is more than just a feeling of being sleepy. It is a cocktail of feeling exhausted, low energy, sleepiness, and muddy thinking. Fatigue at work can stem from many things. The causes can include:

  • Sleep deprivation

  • Too many demands at work or home

  • Medication

  • Other health problems such as depression or anxiety

  • Sleep disorders

  • Bad shift scheduling

No matter what the cause of fatigue is for a worker it can cause errors and accidents and the root of it needs to be found and dealt with.

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue at work is mental and physical exhaustion and related symptoms include:

  • Feeling tired even after you slept

  • Reduced eye-hand coordination

  • Slow reflexes

  • Short term memory problems

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Blurred or impaired vision

  • A need for more sleep on days off

If you are suffering from fatigue at work it is important to let your supervisor know.

Construction worker sleeping on jobsite.

How to Prevent Fatigue at Work

Everyone gets tired at work. But if you find that it is a persistent problem it is time to look at ways to prevent fatigue. You first need to figure out the cause of it, then try to pinpoint a solution.

  • Get plenty of rest. It is recommended you get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. If you are getting less try going to bed earlier.

  • Understand the side effects of your medicine. Talk with your doctor and make sure the medicines you are prescribed will not interfere with your ability to work.

  • Take care of your health. Addressing your health concerns can make you feel better at work and at home.

  • Eat a better diet. Food is to your body like gasoline is to a vehicle. You need proper food to operate and stay healthy. You can not function without a well-balanced diet. Drink water throughout the day.

  • Exercise. Staying active outside of work is a vital way to stay healthy. It could be a 30-minute walk daily or going to the gym. Exercise will help you fight off fatigue because you will have more energy throughout the day.

How to Manage Fatigue

If you are feeling fatigued at work there are a few fatigue management practices you can try in the moment:

  • Try eating healthy snacks that can supercharge your body brain and help you gain energy. This can include bananas, yogurt, blueberries, avocados, salmon, and leafy greens.

  • If you are dehydrated you will also be tired and sluggish. It is best to drink water. If you are needing more of a pick me up you can try a drink with some caffeine such as coke, soda, or coffee.

  • Feeling like you can not keep your eyelids open anymore? Try some stretches or go for a short walk. Get the blood moving.

  • While on your lunch break try to take a 20-30 minute power nap. This can increase your alertness.

If you are feeling fatigued at work, talk to your supervisor. You may need to take a break to recharge your energy levels. You should not operate heavy machinery or any tools when you are feeling tired.

The risk of injuries to yourself and your coworkers drastically increases when you are working with a cloudy mind and tired body. If you are having trouble getting sleep at night or figuring out the cause of your fatigue, talk to your doctor.

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