Overworked and At-Risk

A study at Occupational & Environmental Medicine has turned up some interesting, if not quite surprising conclusions.

The study began by poring over extensive data from sources like the Center for Disease Control, in order to classify five types of exposure:

  • Extended weekly hours.
  • Extended daily hours.
  • Overtime.
  • Extended commute.
  • Overtime or extended hours.

We could fill five or ten pages talking about how they calculated the risks and came to their conclusions, and you can go ahead and read the study and the source data if that interests you, but it breaks down like this: Those who work under a high level of exposure in any of these categories tend to suffer workplace injury at double the rate of those who do not.

The study suggests an injury rate of one in ten for high-exposure employees, and one in twenty for low-exposure employees.

In other words, no matter how hard you work to make your workplace safe, by overworking your employees, you're automatically doubling your risk.

Here are a few ideas to keep your employees safe and your risk factors low:

  • Try to avoid hiring people who will need to commute an hour or more in order to get to work every day. It may be disappointing to let the perfect candidate go simply because they live a little too far away, but not as disappointing as losing that employee to injury for a month because they're spending so much time on the road every day that they don't have time for a good night's sleep.
  • Save overtime for Fridays. Nobody's going to be as alert as you need them to be doing two twelve hour days in a row.
  • Hire enough people. Having one person do the job of two sounds like a great idea until you look at what an injury is going to cost you when they're staying late every day to handle the extra work.

In short: a well-rested employee is an alert employee, and an alert employee is less at-risk for injury on the job. This may not be the most surprising revelation, but now we have the numbers to see exactly how exhaustion plays into workplace safety.
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