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October 04, 2017
How much is fatigue costing your workplace?
By Ana Ellington, Legal Editor

Fatigue among workers is a hidden workplace issue affecting businesses throughout the United States. According to new research from the National Safety Council (NSC) and Brigham Health Sleep Matters Initiative, sleep disorders and sleep deficiency that result in exhausted workers costs employers millions each year in absenteeism, lost productivity, and healthcare costs—most are undiagnosed and untreated disorders.

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Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the NSC, launched the Fatigue Cost Calculator for Employers at this year’s NSC Congress & Expo. The calculator is an online tool that provides companies with a snapshot of not only their losses but also will estimate how much of the burden can be avoided with an employee sleep health education program implemented in the workplace. The program screens for obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia.

Most employers don’t even think about the cost of safety and their bottom line because of fatigue. But, more than 40 percent of workers are sleep-deprived. Most at risk are workers on night shifts, working long shifts, or irregular shifts. However, all workplaces will have some level of fatigue risk. Additional risk factors include:

  • Demanding jobs;
  • Long weeks;
  • Sleep loss;
  • No rest breaks;
  • Quick shift returns; and
  • Long commutes.

Interestingly, the research found regional trends in worker sleep-deprivation risks. The South has the highest risk factors, followed by the West Coast and the Northeast. Workers are least at risk in the Midwest.

Here are some facts for you to consider:

  • Safety performance decreases as workers become tired;
  • 62 percent of nightshift workers complain about sleep loss;
  • Fatigued worker productivity costs employers $1,200 to $3,100 per employee every year; and
  • Workers on rotating shifts are particularly vulnerable because they cannot adapt their “body clocks” to an alternative sleep pattern.

The reality is that more than 1 in 3 people are not getting enough sleep. Educate workers on how to avoid fatigue. For example, workers should:

  • Get enough sleep and adequate rest between physically or cognitively demanding activities.
  • Talk to their doctor about getting screened for sleeping disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Align their natural body clock with their work schedule; some people who regularly fly through different time zones, for example, use melatonin to reset their circadian rhythms.
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule even on days off, and use blackout curtains to keep their bedroom dark.

Be sure to check out the NSC Fatigue Cost Calculator to see how much fatigue is affecting your bottom line and how you can implement programs to reduce the burden.

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