The true costs of budget cuts

When the company says, “Cut the budget.”, they never mean cut productivity.  So what gets cut?  The issues that get pushed aside are often those most important to our safety.  Housekeeping and Preventive Maintenance are critical fire safety components that may get missed during lean times.  Leaner operations can also lead to worker burnout, which in turn leads to occupational hazards and injury. 

Just how big of a threat is worker fatigue? Sleep deprivation, according to the National Sleep Foundation,  increases the likelihood of a workplace accident by as much as 70 percent.  The effects of fatigue can be on par with that of alcohol consumption, resulting in impaired judgment and poor performance at best. At worst, not performing at one’s best could lead to serious injury or fatality.

As an employer, take care to ensure workers are not experiencing signs or effects of fatigue on the job. Fatigue results from a lack of sleep and can be exacerbated by prolonged mental activity or long periods of stress or anxiety. Boring or repetitive tasks can also contribute to the problem. This condition can be chronic or acute, but either type is dangerous as far as workplace safety is concerned. 

Therefore, it’s important to recognize the signs of fatigue, which can manifest as:

  • Tiredness or sleepiness
  • Memory lapses
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slower reaction times

While worker lifestyle and habits can certainly contribute to the problem of fatigue at work, the workplace’s environment can be a factor, too. For example, research has shown that employees who are constantly exposed to loud noises are more likely to become fatigued. Air quality can be another wildcard. Don’t dismiss the power of lighting to influence worker wellbeing. On balance, employees who are exposed to bright lighting tend to be more alert than those in darker facilities. 

It should be mentioned that the importance of adhering to human resources best practices cannot be overstated. Shift scheduling practices can help to address employee fatigue. The number of hours on shift, the frequency and length of breaks, the time of day of the shift, the frequency of shift rotations, and even the number of hours off between shifts can help or hinder occupational safety.

Just like a fire prevention and management plan can keep people safe on site, a fatigue risk management system can curb risks. Such a living document regulates the use of tools, systems, policies and procedures to help monitor and reduce fatigue levels to the greatest extent possible. In general, it will help safety managers assess the level of danger related to worker fatigue, identify trends and reflect issues being reported by employees.

I hope this information triggers some concerns that lead to action during these tough times.  Remember, I will always be here for your safety concerns. Feel free to reach out at (260) 241-2256 or send me a message at kkunze@icfireprevention.com to learn more.

In safety, Kenn

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