Fatigue is a Major Cause of Work Injury and Workers’ Compensation Claims – Workers Compensation Legal Blogs Posted by Tara Reck, Esq.
The Washington State Labor Council and the Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) recently held a seminar on compensation issues. I attended the seminar because it covers various topics related to my area of expertise. The last segment contained an important reminder about work safety: Fatigue is dangerous!
Fatigue can lead to work accidents or accidents at work
According to the US Department of Labor, long, extended, and irregular hours lead to fatigue. In fact, fatigue is a very serious safety concern in the workplace, especially during COVID-19. Nowadays workers juggle so much and work in irregular circumstances. In addition, recent statistics show that tired working conditions and a tired workforce are currently at an all-time high.
Put simply, longer, irregular working hours cause psychological and physical stress. As a result, these undesirable and stressful working conditions increase the risk of illness and injury in the workplace. More specifically, sleep loss and fatigue have a dramatic effect on occupational safety in several ways:
1) Response Time – If you sleep 6 hours or less, your response time can change from a quarter of a second to 4 seconds. Too often, this can mean the difference between making a split-second life-saving decision and not.
2) Discernment and Decision Making – Workers who sleep 90 minutes less than usual are less alert. In particular, this change in sleeping habits can reduce alertness by 30%. As a result, it becomes more difficult for workers to make good decisions. For example, in a high risk work environment, this affects the worker’s ability to quickly identify hazards and avoid work hazards.
3) Impairment – Fatigue from lack of sleep can cause more impairment than from drinking. As a result, workers with reduced fatigue cannot think clearly or critically.
Serious work-related accidents due to fatigue
Workers operating dangerous or heavy equipment while suffering from fatigue are a recipe for disaster. This is especially true for people who work as truck drivers under their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Realistically, fatigue is a common factor in serious motor vehicle accidents. Imagine an 18-wheel utility vehicle and its driver, no matter how experienced he is and drives under exhaustion. Similarly, fatigue is known to contribute to errors in patient care and increases the incidence of occupational health care injuries.
Interestingly, according to the U.S. Department of Health, fatigue played a major role in the following major accidents:
• The 2005 BP oil refinery explosion
• 2009 Colgan plane crash
• Explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and
• Accidents involving nuclear reactors across the country
The health of workers is a top concern and priority
In addition to increasing accidents at work, occupational diseases and injuries, fatigue reduces the general health of workers. Fatigue causes heart disease, stomach and digestive problems, and musculoskeletal disorders. Not to mention reproductive problems and depression. It can also contribute to some cancers (including breast and prostate cancer), sleep disorders, obesity, and worsening chronic diseases like diabetes and epilepsy.
In summary, fatigue is both dangerous and expensive. We all have to do our part to reduce fatigue in the workplace. The workers need to rest properly. When they do this, they are more efficient, safer for themselves and those around them, and they are healthier. We’re all very busy right now. We are also exposed to much more stress than usual. However, we must do our best so that these conditions do not interfere with the importance of rest and good sleep.
Further information: https://tarareck.com/fatigue-work-injury/
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Ms. Tara Reck is the executive L&I attorney at Reck Law – Workers’ Compensation Attorneys in Washington State. If you would like further information, please contact Ms. Reck via:
* Seattle | Bellevue | Mercer Island Office: (206) 395-6141
* Tacoma Office: (253) 999-9828
* Renton office: (425) 800-8195
* Port Orchard Office: (360) 876-4123
* Email: [email protected]
* Your Workers’ Compensation blog at https://tarareck.com/contact/ or their company website at https://recklaw.com/contact/