If you are like most of us when 3:00pm comes around you are reaching for a cup of coffee or some sort of caffeine to provide you with a pick up. Maybe you’re lucky enough that just a good bit of sunshine and fresh air will do the trick and perk you right up. Never the less we all suffer from the afternoon slump sometimes. However this is very different than actually being on the jobsite and becoming fatigued. Fatigue can show up in many different ways whether it is physical or mental. Fatigue can pose a serious threat to the safety and well being of workers and others around us due to a decrease in alertness and energy. Fatigue is a serious concern on the jobsite and it can not be taken lightly.
Why construction workers suffer from fatigue
There are many different factors that lead to fatigue. The construction industry is a high stress, high risk, high effort environment which is prime for worker fatigue. Due to the nature of our industry typically construction workers work longer hours due to compressed schedules. This may lead to overtime or even double shifts to hit tight project schedules. Construction is also transient work so many times workers spend significant time commuting to job sites, greatly decreasing the amount of true down time they have. In addition to the long hours construction is traditionally hard work, taking a toll on workers bodies. A significant portion of this work is also done while heavily exposed to the elements whether it be the heat in the summer or the cold in the winter. If that was not enough construction workers are typically exposed to other hazards such as noise, chemicals and hazardous material while they may be protected from these items they add additional strain to the work. All in all construction is very demanding both mentally and physically and if not manage properly can have significant effects on your health.
Helping workers avoid fatigue
The good news is we can avoid fatigue especially when we are away of the warning signs. It is important to monitor the workload of workers on site. While many will jump at the chance for extra cash, too much overtime can be a bad thing. It lowers productivity and puts workers at a higher risk of fatigue. It is also important that workers take regular breaks. This does not just mean 15 minutes every four hours or so but a regular vacation or day off to recharge the batteries. In addition to managing worker workload we can use technology to help reduce fatigue.
Proper equipment and tools and new technology such as exoskeletons can reduce the physical strain on the body. Simple monitoring devices such as wearables can remind workers to take a break, get a drink or step out of the sun. These tools are a great help in managing fatigue that is caused by overwork. It is also important to have a culture that supports worker wellness and allows them to openly communicate about personal or professional problems. Supportive cultures will ensure that workers are not mentally run down as well as physically. We have to care for the entire worker, both physically and mentally, this will help reduce the risk of fatigue on the jobsite.
Employees and workers are our most valuable asset. Burnout and fatigue are real challenges in our industry and have a great effect on our bottom line. Putting in place programs to encourage worker wellness and awareness of fatigue is a great step towards avoiding potentially catastrophic consequences.