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Fatigued workers are the focus of 2019 National Safety Month

The National Safety Council has designated every June as National Safety Month, and for June 2019, the special focus has been on workplace fatigue. This is a growing problem in North Carolina and across the U.S. with 13% of workplace injuries being attributable to it. In one study, 43% of Americans admitted to sometimes being too tired to do their job safely.

The U.S. Department of Labor has stated that fatigue contributed to several well-known industrial disasters, including the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl, the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion and the 2005 Texas City Refinery explosion. Fatigue-related accidents are 18% more likely during evening shifts and 30% more likely during night shifts.

Those with rotating shift work or with extended and irregular shifts, such as police officers, firefighters, healthcare workers and truckers, are most likely to suffer from fatigue. Fatigue arises from lack of sleep although other factors like long commutes can increase the likelihood of fatigue on the job.

OSHA has several recommendations for averting workplace fatigue. First, employers should determine if long shifts and excessive workload are contributing to fatigue. They should also consider how understaffing and worker absences play a role. Next, employers should allow for frequent rest breaks. Education and training are also essential. Everyone should sleep a minimum of seven hours.

Tired workers can become impaired in judgment and slow in their reactions. Should they injure themselves, they may be able to collect benefits under workers' compensation law. These benefits are limited, but they should cover medical bills and a portion of lost wages. They also cover short- or long-term disability leave, if applicable. Victims do not need to prove that anyone was negligent, but they may face opposition from their employer, which is why they might want legal representation.

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