National Safety Council to employers: address employee fatigue immediately

A firefighter looks at the wreckage after a collision between a car and semi-trailer just north of Grand Forks, N.D., at the interchange of Interstate 29 and U.S. Highway 81 Monday, Jan. 16, 2006. A 33-year-old woman and a 12-year-old boy from Indianola, Iowa, in the car were killed in the crash. The truck driver was injured. (AP Photo/Grand Forks Herald, Eric Hylden)
For the trucking industry, sources vary widely on the percentage of large truck crashes are the result of driver fatigue. On the low end, it’s 13 percent. On the high end, it’s approaching 40 percent. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

ITASCA, Ill. — The National Safety Council says according to its own research, 90 percent of America’s employers have been negatively impacted by tired employees.

Forty-three percent of employees admit they may be too tired to function safely at work.

With fatigue becoming an increasingly common workplace hazard, the National Safety Council is calling on all employers to implement comprehensive programs — known as fatigue risk management systems — that can help prevent the roughly 13 percent of workplace injuries attributable to sleep problems.

As for the trucking industry, sources vary widely on the percentage of large truck crashes are the result of driver fatigue.

On the low end, it’s 13 percent. On the high end, it’s approaching 40 percent.

The council has outlined key elements of a fatigue risk management system in its paper Managing Fatigue: Developing an Effective Fatigue Risk Management System.

Another report from the Campbell Institute — the center for EHS excellence at the National Safety Council — details results from a pilot study conducted among world class safety organizations to assess worker fatigue and effective countermeasures. In Understanding Fatigue Risk: Assessment and Countermeasures, the Campbell Institute identifies a persistent gap between how employers and employees view fatigue and makes the case for changing culture to enhance safety.

To emphasize the importance of the issue, the council and the Campbell Institute also are gathering fatigue experts and researchers from around the globe in Seattle for a symposium that will focus on eliminating fatigue-related risks in the workplace.

“In our 24/7 world, too many employees are running on empty,” said Emily Whitcomb, senior program manager for fatigue initiatives at the National Safety Council. “Employees are an organization’s greatest asset and addressing fatigue in workplaces will help eliminate preventable deaths and injuries.”

Whitcomb said fatigue not only hurts employees’ wellbeing and safety, but it also carries a significant price tag.

Fatigue costs the U.S. economy more than $400 billion annually.

An employer with 1,000 employees can expect to lose more than $1 million each year in missed workdays, lower productivity and increased healthcare due to employee fatigue.

“Even employers with state-of-the-art safety programs feel the negative effects of fatigue,” said John Dony, director of the Campbell Institute “As employers work to eliminate risks, we encourage them to implement fatigue risk management systems and lean on the Council and the Campbell Institute for help.”

Workplace practices and policies that contribute to worker fatigue include working night shifts and overtime, a lack of time off between shifts and inadequate rest areas within the workplace for employees to take breaks.

Whitcomb said strong fatigue risk management systems blend employee education and training with improvements to workplace environments, culture change and data-driven programs.

Additional information about workplace fatigue is available at




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