Tired, Exhausted, Fatigued – Why Manufacturing Companies Need to Pay Attention

They all mean the same thing, right? Not exactly, but being tired or exhausted can lead to fatigue. And that can be dangerous in the workplace. 

What are the definitions?

  • Tired: in need of sleep or rest

  • Exhausted: drained of one’s physical or mental resources; very tired

  • Fatigued: feeling tired, exhausted, or listless either mentally or physically 

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), fatigue costs employers about $136 billion each year in lost productivity. 

Fatigue is an impairment. It can be akin to intoxication. And it is known to increase the likelihood of injuries in the workplace.  Fatigue was a factor in disasters such as the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, and the BP oil refinery explosion in Texas according to OSHA

Most of us don’t work in those environments that can cause catastrophic events. Or do we? Even the manufacturing environment that produces food may have areas within that could do great harm to one or many if an accident were to occur. 

Take a look at the detrimental effects of fatigue as generalized by the NSC:

  • An individual will experience a decrease in their ability to perform basic cognitive functions resulting in a decline in a number of vital activities such as attention, vigilance, and memory.

  • Decreases in cognitive performance lead to a decline in job and safety performance. A person will become less productive thus increasing their risk of a negative safety incident.

  • A chronically fatigued individual will become more at-risk to health problems.

Overall, fatigued persons are an economic strain to themselves, employers, and society.

So what makes a person at risk for fatigue in manufacturing? 

  • Shift Work. Those that work a schedule that interferes with the body’s circadian rhythm are likely to be sleep deprived due to insomnia, poor sleep quality, and short sleep duration.

  • Working Excessive Overtime. Those working more than 50 hours per week are shown to not have adequate rest periods for both their mental and physical well-being. 

  • Time on Task. Individuals that spend long durations on repetitive tasks such as those on the assembly line.

As an employer, what can you do? 

  • Optimize Schedules. Avoid understaffing and shift lengths in excess of 10 hours or 50 hours total per week. Assign predictable schedules and provide time to recover between shifts. Some states like Illinois and Wisconsin have the One Day Rest in Seven law which requires 24 consecutive hours of rest every calendar week. 

  • Rotate Duties. Move people around during their shift to a different task wherever possible. The necessity of repetition for productivity doesn’t mean that you can’t allow changing it up for your employees. And allow for frequent breaks throughout shifts. 

  • Establish a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) as a subset of your company’s Safety Management System. Know what the risks are within your company and make plans to mitigate those risks.

Contact us at The Xcel Group to discuss your staffing needs, and together we can look at how we can get you the best workforce that you need and when you need them.