- According to the National Safety Council's recent "Fatigue in Safety Critical Industries — Impacts, Risks & Recommendations" report, 100% of surveyed construction workers had at least one risk factor for on-the-job fatigue, which can cause hazardous jobsite conditions and increase the risk of injury. Of the construction employers participating in the survey, 71% said workers' lack of sleep affected productivity and 45% responded that worker fatigue was responsible for safety-related incidents.
- Despite the potential dangers of working on a construction site while overly tired, only 75% of construction workers believed it to be a safety issue, while 98% of construction employers responded that it was. There was also a gap between the 96% of employers and 78% of employees who agreed it is unsafe to drive while tired. With regard to risk factors for fatigue, the largest share of construction workers — 76% — said the demands of the job affected them. The second-most named factor was long commutes, by 46% of employees, followed by night or early-morning work (46%), getting less than seven to nine hours of sleep a night (41%), working 50 or more hours a week (28%) and working 10-hour or longer shifts (27%).
- The council suggests several changes employers can make to reduce worker fatigue such as decreasing the length of shifts and work weeks, educating employees on the dangers of sleep deprivation, establishing a fatigue reporting system, scheduling regular rest breaks and creating nap areas for those who are working night shifts. Other suggested controls include driver fatigue alert systems.
Something else that can affect worker sleep patterns — and potentially create dangerous worksite conditions — is the spring shift to daylight saving time. Losing an hour of sleep in the spring can disrupt body rhythms and reportedly cause a spike in heart attacks, other medical conditions and automobile accidents each year. The upcoming November switch from DST will give everyone an extra hour of sleep, but even the additional time could affect sleep patterns.
OSHA recognizes fatigue as a serious jobsite safety issue as well. In addition to National Safety Council employer recommendations, the agency suggests monitoring lighting, temperature and other elements of workers' physical surroundings to ensure they promote alertness.
Experts suggest that employers limit workplace hours, but given the shortage of skilled workers, contractors might be hard-pressed to give too much in this area for fear of missing critical work deadlines. According to September's Q3 2018 USG Corporation + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index report, 80% of contractors the group surveyed were either highly concerned (26%) or moderately concerned (54%) about the safety risks created by workforce shortages.