Night-shift workers, including drivers and other transportation personnel, are three times more likely to get injured on the job, according to a new study that explores fatigue in the workplace. Tired workers can cost a typical employer with 1,000 employees up to $1 million each year.
Shift scheduling can contribute to fatigue, but identifying risky practices and implementing effective scheduling practices can help reduce or manage fatigue risk, according to the report from the National Safety Council.
For example, 51% of employers expect their people to work a night shift immediately before or after a day shift. Moreover, 49% of employers schedule night shifts with no pre-determined end time. Yet both practices increase an employee's fatigue risk, which ups their chances of getting injured on the job.
For drivers, increased fatigue can quickly advance to drowsiness behind the wheel. Fleet managers should be aware of smart scheduling practices.
Limiting the number of consecutive night shifts for any given employee — and allowing naps or rest breaks during night shifts — are two of the best ways to manage fatigue risk, according to the report.
However, the survey indicates that employers have a long way to go to ensure they are taking tired workers seriously.
While some 90% of employers say they are willing to meet with a fatigued employee to understand the causes of his or her exhaustion, only 55% say they adjust the worker's schedule or tasks accordingly.
An alarming 73% of employers say they do not communicate with their workers about fatigue.
The survey findings indicate that overtime practices are another area of concern. Employees who work long hours accumulate fatigue throughout the shift, increasing their risk for accident and injury.
In fact, injury risk begins increasing after eight hours, with a 13% increase on a 10-hour shift and a 30% increase on a 12-hour shift, notes the report.
Working long shifts on a regular basis contributes to sleep deprivation, which can affect a driver's health and wellbeing.
The report suggests the following strategies employers can use to better manage the risk of long hours:
- Avoid quick shift returns.
- Ensure employees have enough time off between shifts to allow for commuting, personal responsibilities and at least seven hours of sleep.
- Ten to twelve-hour shift return minimums should be considered.