According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, 5,333 American workers died on the job in 2019. Big improvements in workplace safety have steadily driven the annual figure down in Minnesota and elsewhere since the 1970s, but safety at work remains a serious concern that can have drastic consequences for both employers and employees.
Worker fatigue is one of the common contributing factors to workplace injuries. Here is why working while exhausted is dangerous as well and how it affects the economy and workers’ lives.
What are the consequences of workplace accidents involving tired workers?
Workplace accidents of any kind can cause life-altering injuries for workers, cost employers in workers’ compensation and even threaten the closure of the company involved. Workplace injuries that involve a lack of sleep among workers cost $400 billion in economic losses each year throughout the country. That price comes in addition to the pain and suffering that these accidents inflict on those who experience them.
Why do employees work when they are exhausted?
There might be several motivations at hand for an employee to try to work through exhaustion, even to the point of damaging their health and endangering their own welfare and that of their coworkers. Personal reasons for working while tired may include money, ambition or a sense of duty.
There are also work cultures and attitudes that impact workplace safety. These norms are set from the top down. In competitive environments, a culture of 12-hour workdays or longer might push employees past their comfort zone and compel them to work even when they don’t have the capacity to safely perform their job duties.
The takeaway on worker fatigue and workplace injuries
The onus is ultimately on the employer to foster a safe work environment and to create a culture of safety that starts at the top. Managing worker fatigue is an essential component of any accident-prevention strategy. With the appropriate set of safety standards, employees and employers together can prevent many workplace accidents.