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Fatigue risk management can improve workplace safety

Fatigue risk management can improve workplace safety

ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill.—Implementing a comprehensive fatigue risk management system could improve workplace safety and efficiency, according to a new guidance paper released by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Fatigue is “diagnostically nonspecific,” but about 38% of U.S. workers suffer from fatigue—which can be defined as feeling weariness, tiredness or a lack of energy—and is associated with many health conditions, including physical and psychological disorders, according to “Fatigue Risk Management in the Workplace,” released Friday.

Related issues, such as the correlation between inadequate sleep and injury rates, are costly for employers. Sleep disorders, for example, cost employers $60 billion annually in lost productivity, industrial accidents and medical expenses, according to data in Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based ACOEM's report.

“Fatigue and decreased alertness resulting from insufficient or poor-quality sleep can have several safety-related consequences, including slowed reaction time, reduced vigilance, reduced decision-making ability, poor judgment, distraction during complex tasks, and loss of awareness in critical situations,” the paper states.

But risk assessment and key mitigation measures as part of a fatigue risk management system can help, the college said in its paper.

Components of an FRMS system can include maintaining a fatigue management policy and implementing fatigue risk management, which includes collecting information on fatigue hazards, analyzing its risk, and initiating controls to mitigate the risks.

It also can include developing a fatigue reporting system for employees; conducting fatigue incident investigations; conducting fatigue management training and education for employees; and establishing a process for internal and external auditing of a FRMS that helps implement corrective actions through a continuous improvement process.

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