OHSA Safe Work Approach to Fight Fatigue and Increase Productivity

We’ve written before about the need for sleep and paying attention to hours worked in a week. Today’s post comes from Safety Services Company and looks at some of the risks of working tired.

Being tired at work is just not the way life has to be, and there is a lot more to fix it than grab an extra-large cup of coffee.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) points out that fatigue is a message the body needs rest, and that the mental and physical symptoms affect workplace safety and productivity.

Examples are: weariness, sleepiness, irritability, reduced alertness, lack of memory, concentration and motivation, increased chances of illness, depression, headache, giddiness, digestive problems, and loss of appetite.

Removing Workplace Causes of Fatigue

Following OSHA's recommended procedure to first take steps to eliminate hazards, employers should seek to either remove or reduce causes of worker fatigue.

Workplace practices that cause fatigue included shift work that either has employees working at night or switching back and forth between day and night shifts. Another cause are extended shift more than 8 consecutive hours, five days a week with less than an 8 hour rest period between shifts. A less obvious cause of workplace fatigue are tasks that require repetitive motions or just standing or sitting in one place for long periods of time.

When possible, limiting extended shifts and the frequency employees switch between different shifts helps maintain productivity and alertness.

Do not maintain extended shifts for more than a few days, and give time for employees to get accustomed to switching from days to nights. Have enough workers to allow for formal breaks for lunch and dinner, and small breaks for workers to adjust position and stretch. Schedule the hardest physical labor or tasks that require the most concentration to the start of the shift and instruct managers to be alert for the symptoms of fatigue in workers whose schedules put them at the most risk.

Lastly provide chairs, lift assisting devices, ergonomically designed tools and workstations, and anti-fatigue mats to further eliminate causes of workplace exhaustion.

Fatigue Management Starts with Sleep

People will come to work tired so the next step to an alert productive team is to teach ways to help employees recognize how to fix the causes of their weariness.

Sleep is the best solution and everyone should take responsibility to get enough sleep that they feel restored, and teaching these few steps can help ensure they do.

Keep a written record of when you go to sleep, when you wake up and how rested you feel. Doing this will make you mindful of how much sleep you need and the best time for you. Most people need at least six hours of sleep, but you may need even more.

When working an extended or night shift, it is a good idea to go to bed as early as possible to ensure you get enough sleep. Then if there is time, take advantage of the natural tendency to get sleepy in mid-afternoon to take a second nap to get ready for a night shift.

When switching back to working days after a night shift, sleep just a couple hours after the night shift to shake off the sleepiness, then stay awake all day and go to sleep at your regular night bedtime to get ready for the first day shift.

Sleeping during the day has its own challenges so take the following steps: block out noise by switching off the phone and disconnecting the doorbell. Use ear plugs. Set strict times for noisy activity, such as vacuuming, washing clothes or children playing. Locate the bedroom in the quietest place and put up signs saying when you are sleeping.

Make sure the bedroom is as dark as possible and follow your regular routine every time you go to sleep.

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise helps deal with stress, illness, exhaustion and getting alert for work while also relaxed for sleep. Twenty minutes of aerobic exercise (walk, bike ride, jump rope or swim) activates the body and wake it up.

Try exercising before going on shift and if you work out after your shift; avoid doing it three hours before you go to sleep.

While at Work

What you do at work can lead to unnecessary weariness. Take frequent breaks from repetitive tasks and get up and stretch if you sit all day and find time to sit down you are on your feet all day.

Maintain a proper posture of neutral and comfortable positions to avoid wasting energy and increasing the risk of injury. Keep shoulders relaxed without shrugging or slumping, elbows close to your body and keep the work at elbow height. Avoid twisting or bending the neck. Keep hands in line with forearms and avoid working with wrists pressed against sharp hard edges. Stand straight without bending, leaning to the side or twisting your back.

Taking these two approaches to eliminating fatigue causing workplace conditions and ensuring employees are mindful of good sleep practices are a proactive way to increase workplace safety and productivity.

 

At www.safetyservicescompany.com, Jay Acker's editorial group makes materials for conducting weekly safety meetings, safety training programs, posters, and other items.