January 28, 2019 - Heather Jackson

Can you Predict When an Employee Is No Longer Able to Work Safely?


At the start of their shift, your employees may give 110 percent to their duties performed. But at some point, the distractions of their environment around them, complacency – and most dangerously – fatigue can kick in.

At times this may be inevitable, but at what point does it become unsafe?

Learn how to detect when they’ve become a safety hazard to themselves, their team, and your organization at large so you can prevent a devastating accident from occurring, and manipulate the injury outcome overall.

Fatigue Causes Productivity Loss  

According to a study done by the National Safety Council, workplace injury caused by fatigue has reached a new level. In 2017, it was costing U.S. businesses $130 million per year in health-related lost productivity.

Employees who are fatigued hinder their job performance with:

  • Poor judgement
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Reduced cognitive ability

Every organization has one (or two, or more) employees who tend to slow things down because they’re overworked and tired. By being tired and on the clock, they become a jeopardy to others, and a liability to the employer.

What’s an employer to do?

Actually, two important things – which can minimize the (fatigue) impact!

These 2 Steps Can Minimize Occupational Injury Costs

1. Know who’s at risk. When an employee is tired, their work performance is typically off. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation on the job contributes to impaired cognitive function, decision making and reaction time.

How dangerous can that be when you have employees driving long distances behind the wheel of a semi, or handling drills, saws and other heavy machinery?

It’s not just dangerous – it could be fatal:

Observe your staff. Watch them. Do they seem distracted, or focused? Are they making small errors here and there, or big mistakes frequently? Who has worked overtime recently?

Additionally, here are the most common signs of fatigue to be on alert for:

  • weariness
  • tiredness
  • sleepiness, including falling asleep against your will (“micro” sleeps)
  • irritability
  • reduced alertness, concentration and memory
  • lack of motivation
  • depression
  • giddiness
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • digestive problems, and
  • increased susceptibility to illness.

2. Take steps to help. One important step is safety training and education.

The most effective way to teach – not preach?

By being the very best model of safety YOU can be.

Show them how to be safe by offering your past experience as lessons (including both your successes and mistakes will humanize you in the eyes of your employees) and coming up with new ways everyone can be safer.

Make sure to walk the talk every day, and hold them accountable to do the same.

Reward employees when they help someone lift a heavy box to prevent a back injury or pointing out a hazard to their supervisor.

Encourage them to take short breaks when necessary in an effort to beat fatigue on the job.

When they ask “Why?” remind them as straightforward as possible: It could SAVE their job and prevent injury. These actionable steps – no matter how minor they may seem – all contribute to a safer work environment for everyone!

The Bottom Line 

Many employers are already aware of the steep price tag that comes with a single worker’s comp claim caused by fatigue – let alone multiple claims. But, by knowing your employees and their potential risk, and testing employees throughout their life cycle, you can reduce, prevent and optimize injury outcome. 


Posted in Incident Case Management, Injury Case Management, Occupational Health Management, Occupational Health Programs