Worker Fatigue: An Unseen Hazard of Emergency Response
Date: November 4, 2019
When hurricanes hit, PLH Group responds. When fire rages, PLH Group responds. When ice storms cripple communities, PLH Group responds. PLH Group and its 11 entities — which provide full-service power line construction, pipeline construction, and specialty contractor services — are proud to be skilled in land and air services to aid communities impacted by disaster throughout North America and are poised to respond around- the-clock, year-round.
But these situations require more than just the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), adequate tools, and necessary skill sets. They require emergency preparedness — including a thorough understanding of associated risks. One of the most critical, yet common, challenges faced during emergency response situations is worker fatigue.
In emergency response situations, crews are often called out of their daily routines, including location and work hours. In many instances, this may lead to worker fatigue. According to OSHA’s recently-launched web page dedicated to worker fatigue, “accident and injury rates are 18% greater during evening shifts and 30% greater during night shifts when compared to day shifts.”
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Additionally, working 12 hours in one day — as many workers do — is associated with a 37% increased risk of injury. Worker fatigue, which is often difficult to detect before it is too late, has been cited as a contributing factor in several devastating incidents, including the 2005 BP oil refinery explosion, the Challenger space shuttle explosion, and the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.
Reduced alertness and impaired decision making are two of the many effects of worker fatigue. These are critical to the job PLH Group workers do in emergency response situations. Especially when experienced simultaneously, these effects could result in devastating consequences. In addition to leading to a potential accident, worker fatigue is also believed to be linked to health issues, including heart disease, digestive issues, depression, obesity, and worsening of existing chronic diseases.
To combat worker fatigue, OSHA recommends that workers promote healthy sleep habits by:
Sleeping interruption-free for 7-9 hours during the same time each day to allow for the body’s natural circadian rhythm
Avoiding caffeine prior to sleep
Sleeping within the last eight hours prior to the start of a work shift
Napping (if needed) less than 45 minutes or longer than 2 hours to not disturb the body’s natural sleep cycle
Maintaining a healthy diet, weight, and exercise routine
PLH Group and its entities understand that emergency response is about more than the ability to do the job; it’s about the ability to do the job safely.