According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workplace fatigue drastically increases workers’ risk of injury. The injury and accident rates are significantly higher during evening and night shifts than they are during day shifts. They also increase as workers’ hours increase. Research shows that individuals who work 12 hours a day have a 37% increased risk of accident or injury. For every extended shift a person works per month, his or her risk of being involved in a car accident on the way home increases by 16.2%.
Though workers across many industries are at risk of worker fatigue, construction workers are particularly vulnerable. The very nature of construction work puts workers at an increased risk for workplace fatigue. The Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America identifies all the risk factors for workplace fatigue:
- Extended shifts of at least 10 hours
- Physically demanding labor, especially labor that includes repetitive tasks
- Constant communication between team members regarding complex tasks
- Work weeks of 50 hours or more
- Irregular shifts
- Having less than 12 hours between shifts to recover
The findings of a National Safety Council study concluded that 100% of all construction workers presented at least one risk factor for on-the-job fatigue, though most show more.
The results of the survey further revealed that as much as 75% of construction workers say they feel that the daily demands of their jobs contributed to their levels of fatigue. Additional studies show that many workers felt “so exhausted to the point where they had safety concerns.” This was particularly the case after work 10-hour shifts for three to four consecutive days.
What is concerning is that there is a gap between how employers view on-the-job fatigue versus how workers view it. 98% of management understand the dangers of working while tired, while only 75% of construction workers can say the same. Though the study does not reveal why this gap exists, researchers suspect it may be because workers assume exhaustion is “just part of the job.”