A National Safety Council survey report recently released found 69% of employees – many of whom work in in safety-critical industries – are tired at work, increasing the risk of injuries and incidents on the job. The report summarizes the results of two national surveys, one of employers and a second probability-based survey of employees. The report highlights findings from the construction, manufacturing, transportation and utilities sectors– all high-risk industries that tend to use shift work, which commonly leads to fatigue.

The surveys also exposed a gap between how employees and employers view the risks and consequences of being tired at work. 90% of employers feel the impact of fatigue on their organizations, including observing safety incidents involving tired employees and declines in productivity. However, just 72% of workers view being tired as a safety issue.

Fatigue is a hidden but common hazard in all workplaces, regardless of industry. In safety-critical positions, however, the consequences of being tired can be catastrophic. For example, mistakes on construction sites, around gas line digging areas or behind the wheel of big-rig trucks easily can lead to injuries or even death.

Other significant findings from the survey include:

  • 97% of employers in the transportation industry feel the impact of fatigue – the highest among all safety-critical industries
  • Nearly all – 95% of employers in Utilities said it is unsafe to drive while tired, but just 66% of employees in that industry agreed
  • 100% of construction workers report having at least one risk factor for fatigue
  • 46% of construction workers say they work during high-risk hours, such as at night or early morning
  • Transportation industry employees who reported at least one risk factor for fatigue cited long shifts (42%) and sleep loss (48%)

Employer findings included:

  • 90% of employers want to understand root causes of employees’ fatigue, but only 55% said they would adjust schedules or tasks
  • 74% underestimated the prevalence of fatigue in the workforce
  • 73% do not communicate to employees about fatigue
  • 61% do not believe employees are comfortable telling them if they were too tired to perform their job safely
  • 51% assigned a night shift to an employee immediately before or after a day shift