The American Society of Safety Professionals Foundation has released the results of a three-year study on worker fatigue that indicates that wearable technology could play a role in both better defining the problem of overtired workers and increasing safety on the job.
In “Advancing Safety Surveillance Using Individualized Sensor Technology (ASSIST): Final Progress Report,” the foundation said that the combination of wearable sensors such as smart clips on belts and hardhats, big data analysis and safety engineering could measure and model fatigue to determine how it impacts worker safety and that “meaningful data” could be collected using this approach without great expense to employers and with minimal disruption to work schedules.
The study found that the most affected areas of an overtired worker are the ankles, eyes, lower back and feet and that the major causes were lack of sleep, stress and shift scheduling. Most workers deal with being tired on the job by drinking caffeinated beverages, stretching or engaging in other exercises and talking with co-workers. The foundation said that although the study was directed toward workers on the manufacturing floor, the same technological interventions could be beneficial to other strenuous jobs, like those in the construction industry.
In the construction industry, the problem of worker fatigue is more than just academic. The National Safety Council in October reported that 100% of the construction workers they surveyed had at least one risk factor for on-the-job fatigue and that only 75% believed being overtired on a construction site was a safety issue. However, 98% of employers said fatigued workers did pose safety risks. And while 96% of employers said it was unsafe to drive while overly tired, only 78% of employees agreed that it was.
The council suggested that more employee education about the dangers of jobsite fatigue was in order, as was modifying the length of shifts and workweeks, scheduling regular rest breaks and setting up a fatigue reporting system.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has also dedicated space on its website to information about combating worker fatigue and suggests that employers:
- Take stock of work schedules and adjust them to reduce the chance that they will result in worker fatigue.
- Arrange schedules to allow for rest and nighttime sleep.
- Arrange lighting, temperature and other physical worksite conditions to increase alertness.
- Provide worker education and training about fatigue and how it can affect, among other things, their health.
- Consider establishing a Fatigue Risk Management Plan.