Fatigue – An often overlooked risk factor in the workplace
SAP EHS Workplace Safety contains a risk assessment process that is somewhat of an open box in that all types of hazards can be documented and the associated risk level determined and controlled. One risk factor that may have been overlooked in the past but has become increasingly important and apparent is worker fatigue; not just physical fatigue, but mental stress and burnout.
Worker fatigue in all its forms will result in a general increase in workplace risk if not managed. Slower reaction times, inattention, reduced vigilance, and even reduced coordination/balance are all possible consequences of people being overworked or stressed or not getting enough sleep. There is an old saying that when people start tripping over door sills, everyone needs to take a break. The changes that occurred during the COVID pandemic and the ongoing worker shortage has set up a situation where employees could be more working more hours than ever.
Just like loud noise and chemical exposures, there is science and a body of knowledge that has grown over the last decade or so on how to assess and quantify fatigue, which then allows accurate risk assessment and effective mitigation strategies. It is outside the scope of this post to fully explore that, but key aspects of managing fatigue risk include collecting information, learning from fatigue-related incidents, management training, and specific controls like overtime hours tracking and mandatory work breaks. Mental fatigue is a bit trickier to handle, but the overall process of identification, assessment, and control is still valid.
The basic risk assessment process within SAP EHS is shown below. The application can be configured to track hazards related to fatigue, and then apply a risk rating methodology that is specific to those hazards. Finally, specific and validated control measures to prevent fatigue and reduce the severity of the risk are entered in a control catalog maintained by end users. The fatigue risks will show up alongside other workplace items in analytical reports.
It should be noted that the direct integration of SAP EHS and HR processes will foster smoother execution of some of the controls such as overtime tracking.
I’ve paraphrased some of this information from this EHS Today magazine article, along with OSHA safety regulations and guidance documents. If you want to learn more, please check these out: