Fatigue and Stress Linked to Increased Errors and Workplace Injuries

Robert J. Mandell discusses fatigue and workplace injuries.

The economic downturn of recent years has led many employers to decrease their workforces and shift more duties and longer hours to remaining employees. Even in a healthy economy, certain industries tend to require long and/or abnormal working hours. This can put undue physical, emotional and mental stress on employees and lead to workplace injuries that could have otherwise been avoided.

A study by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found that fatigue changes the ability to think and function effectively during the work day. Additionally, non-traditional work shifts during night hours or significantly longer than normal work hours disrupts the body’s normal schedule and further stresses the normal reaction to fatigue. The result is an increase in the potential for operator error, workplace injuries and/or accidents on the job with a corresponding rise in workers compensation claims.

Healthcare Workers Among the Most Overworked

Unfortunately, many of those working long and abnormal hours work in hospitals, particularly emergency rooms. In 2010, public advocacy and other groups petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to take legislative action on the issue of fatigue in the medical field. OSHA issued a statement in response acknowledging the link between sleep deprivation and an increase in the possibility of workplace injuries, errors and motor vehicle accidents in not only the medical field but other industries as well. In fact, they noted that the US Chemical Safety Board asserted worker fatigue and extended work hours were contributing factors to the 2005 explosion at the BP Texas City oil refinery which resulted in 15 deaths and 170 injuries.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found extended overtime leads to a decrease in alertness and cognitive function, thus increasing the risk of workplace injuries, tension and anxiety, gastrointestinal issues and chest pain. OSHA guidelines mirror these findings, stating that symptoms of fatigue include tiredness, irritability, low motivation, depression, sleepiness and an increased risk of illness and depression.

Employers Are Responsible For a Safe Working Environment

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees but does not impose any federal limits on the number of hours that may be worked. Instead, OSHA issues guidelines and urges employers to follow them. OSHA generally recommends employers provide additional breaks if overtime is required, as well as spreading out overtime over more days for fewer hours per day. Finally, employers are urged to be aware of the signs of fatigue and take action as soon as they are present.

Employers are responsible to their employees and the potential harm they could incur due to fatigue-related errors and accidents. Employers with tired employees also face a risk of liability for harm caused to others, depending upon the ability of the employer to foresee the potential of such harm. If fatigue has played a role in an injury to an employee or someone injured by an overworked employee, consultation with a personal injury attorney can help determine if an employer may be at fault.

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Call Robert Mandell to Discuss Your Case

Robert Mandell is a personal injury and wrongful death attorney, and lead litigator at The Mandell Law Firm in Woodland Hills. He is experienced and knowledgeable in all areas of personal injury law, including accidents and negligence. Call him for a free evaluation of your claim. It’s important to work with a personal injury attorney who has demonstrated a determination to fight for his clients. Robert Mandell and the team at Mandell Law will fight to protect your rights. To arrange a free consultation, contact Robert Mandell at The Mandell Law Firm in Woodland Hills. 818.886.6600.

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