OSHA Cautions Employers to Focus on Worker Fatigue to Reduce the Risk of Fatigue-related Injuries and Illnesses

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The OSHA Training Institute Education Center at Chabot-Las Positas Community College District urges employers to reduce the impact of demanding work schedules.

Cari Elofson, Assistant Director, OSHA Training Institute Education Center

Cari Elofson, Assistant Director, OSHA Training Institute Education Center

It’s important to address the issue of worker fatigue and its potential impact on each worker's safety and health as well as on the safety of co-workers.

The OSHA Training Institute Education Center at Chabot-Las Positas Community College District, the only OSHA authorized OTI Education Center headquartered in Northern California, is highlighting an OSHA initiative focused on reducing the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses due to worker fatigue. OSHA’s worker fatigue web page features information on the impact of demanding work schedules and provides strategies to help workers and employers reduce fatigue and fatigue-related injuries and illnesses.

“Long work hours and irregular work shifts are widespread in today’s workplace and may increase the risk of injuries and accidents due to worker fatigue, increased levels of stress and poor health,” says Cari Elofson, Assistant Director of the OSHA Training Institute Education Center at Chabot-Las Positas Community College District. “It’s important to address the issue of worker fatigue and its potential impact on each worker's safety and health as well as on the safety of co-workers.”

It’s estimated that 13% of workplace injuries can be attributed to fatigue, and 43% of Americans admit they may be too tired to function safely at work. Decreased alertness from worker fatigue has been shown to be a factor in major industrial disasters, including the 2005 Texas City BP oil refinery explosion and the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

Worker fatigue has been studied in aviation and other modes of transportation, the military, emergency response, healthcare, firefighting, law enforcement and other fields. These studies provide several key strategies that employers can implement to mitigate risk factors associated with worker fatigue, including:

  • Examining staffing issues, such as workload, work hours, understaffing, scheduled and unscheduled worker absences and other factors that may be contributing to worker fatigue
  • Arranging schedules to allow frequent opportunities for rest breaks
  • Adjusting the work environment with lighting, temperature and physical surroundings to increase alertness
  • Providing worker education and training to address the hazards and symptoms of fatigue and its impact on health; the importance of adequate sleep, diet and exercise; and stress management strategies to minimize the adverse effects of fatigue.

OSHA’s worker fatigue web page offers many additional resources, including frequently asked questions on extended and irregular work shifts, an overview of issues related to shift work and extended work hours from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and information and ideas on how to reduce workplace fatigue from the National Safety Council (NSC).

About the OSHA Training Institute Education Center

The OSHA Training Institute Education Center at Chabot-Las Positas Community College District offers high quality Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) standards-based training for construction, maritime and general industries in Dublin, California, conveniently located in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as twelve additional locations throughout California, Nevada and Hawaii. Programs offered include OSHA safety standards, Outreach Trainer courses, Cal/OSHA standards and customized on-site safety training. For more information, including a complete course schedule, visit the OSHA Training Institute Education Center website at https://osha4you.com, email otc(at)clpccd.org or call (866) 936-OSHA (6742).

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