Unfortunately, many workers and even their employers do not fully comprehend the serious safety issues posed by fatigued workers. Sleep deprivation combined with long periods of mental or physical hard work can result in serious accidents and injuries because of fatigue.
In the article below, our Houston workers’ compensation lawyers discuss several topics related to fatigue and workers’ comp claims including:
- What is fatigue?
- What are the signs and causes of fatigue?
- How does fatigue affect workers on the job?
- Can you collect workers’ compensation benefits for fatigue-related injuries and illnesses?
What Is Fatigue?
Fatigue develops over time when you do not allow yourself sufficient time to sleep and rest, or your natural body rhythms are disrupted routinely. Our bodies are programmed to be active during daylight hours, and to rest went it is dark. If we disrupt these patterns, we can also experience fatigue. Fatigue is more than being just a little overtired or overworked every once in a while. Even when you get some sleep, you are still tired when you wake up. Eventually, fatigue can negatively impact your concentration, motivation, and energy.
What Are The Signs And Causes Of Fatigue?
Fatigue at work is a serious problem in the United States. On average, an adult needs seven hours or more of sleep each night. However, it is estimated that approximately forty percent of employees suffer from sleep loss. Some of the common signs of fatigue include:
- Impaired decision-making skills. It can take longer for employees to make decisions or employees may make poor decisions.
- Attention span and focus are impaired. An employee suffering from fatigue may have more trouble concentrating on specific tasks. Attention spans may be greatly reduced, and some employees may not be able to think clearly at times.
- Dozing off at work because the employee is drowsy from a lack of sleep.
- Physical signs of fatigue may include muscle pain, loss of appetite, anxiety, headaches, irritability, and drowsiness.
- Reaction time may also be greatly reduced when an employee is fatigued or drowsy. In some professions, a decrease in reaction time can be dangerous and deadly.
There are many causes of fatigue in the workplace. The National Safety Council (NSC) identifies five causes or risks for fatigue in employees:
- Time of day can increase the risk of fatigue. Shift workers and night workers are vulnerable to fatigue because they are awake when the body’s natural circadian rhythm indicates they should be asleep.
- Sleep deprivation is another cause of workplace fatigue. Workers who regularly get less than seven hours of sleep may suffer from chronic fatigue.
- The time an employee spends on a certain task can also be a factor in fatigue. An employee who spends a great deal of time on one task or performs repetitive tasks may develop signs of fatigue such as mental and muscle tiredness.
- Work factors may also increase the risk of fatigue. Environmental factors, such as poor indoor air quality and noise can contribute to fatigue. Likewise, task-related factors, such as activities that require high levels of physical or mental demands, can increase fatigue.
- A worker’s personal factors can also put that person at a higher risk of developing fatigue at work. A person’s age and health are factors. In addition, anyone suffering from sleeping disorders and chronic health conditions may also have a higher risk of developing fatigue.
How Does Fatigue Affect Workers On The Job?
A recent survey indicated that fatigued and tired employees negatively impact roughly 90 percent of employers. A report by the NSC found that 97 percent of workers had at least one risk factor for fatigue and 80 percent had at least two or more risk factors. When an employee has multiple risk factors for fatigue, the risk of workplace injuries increases.
Employers and employees need to take steps to reduce the risk of workplace injuries caused by fatigue. Employees should ensure they get plenty of sleep each night, seek treatment for sleep disorders, and try to maintain a constant sleep schedule. Employers need to communicate with employees about the dangers of fatigue and institute policies that reduce the risk that workers may be overly tired or fatigued at work, such as not permitting workers to work extra shifts without adequate rest. Employers can also institute regular breaks and provide a designated area for employees to rest during breaks.
Can You Collect Workers’ Compensation Benefits For Fatigue-Related Injuries And Illnesses?
The Texas workers’ compensation system covers injuries and illnesses that occur on-the-job. Workers are not required to prove the employer was negligent or at fault to recover workers’ comp benefits. All that should be required is to prove that the injury or illness is work-related.
Only a physician can determine if fatigue was a factor in causing the workplace injury. If you have questions about a workplace injury or your workers’ comp claim has been denied, you can get help from a Houston workers’ comp attorney.
Contact a Houston Workers’ Compensation Attorney for Help
Workers’ compensation claims should not be difficult. Employees injured at work deserve to be compensated. However, workers’ compensation insurance providers can be difficult and deny valid claims.