Is Coronavirus Fatigue Leading to More Workplace Injuries?

Is Coronavirus Fatigue Leading to More Workplace Injuries?

COVID-19 has drastically changed the landscape of our society. Besides stay-at-home orders, learning from home, and limited gatherings, additional stress affects employees who work from home or work in places deemed essential. 

Staffing decreases in both work-from-home and essential services lead to added stress and frustration. Balancing taking care of children at home and making sure they aren’t falling behind in school while keeping up with work deadlines and long hours has become challenging for employees.

Fatigue due to COVID-19 not only affects performance and morale; it puts companies at risk for a worker’s compensation claim due to an employee being fatigued and unable to concentrate on their job. This risk is compounded when employees engage in manual labor for fields such as construction.   

What causes fatigue?

Fatigue and tiredness are not the same things. Fatigue is caused by working around-the-clock, inconsistent work schedules, high-pressure work environments, low staffing, and long hours. This results in struggling to perform daily activities. Things like feeling weary, overwhelmed, losing interest in social interaction, and lacking motivation are symptoms of fatigue. 

Tiredness is from a lack of sleep or an interrupted sleep schedule. Individuals dealing with tiredness often fall asleep while driving, sitting in a waiting room, and a meeting. People with fatigue rarely fall asleep during these times but also suffer from lack of sleep, which adds to fatigue and listlessness. 

3 Types of Fatigue

1. Repetitive Task Fatigue

Employees who perform tasks over and over are prone to boredom and lack of concentration. These repetitive actions can cause injury and costly mistakes, which affect employee safety and loss of revenue. 

Long work shifts that are greater than 8 hours leads to reduced alertness and affects performance. Working overtime creates an increase in accidents and injuries. Employees also experience increased sleepiness because the shortened off hours provide inadequate time for sleep. 

2. Mental Fatigue

Increased hours worked, and lack of sleep creates a prime environment for mental fatigue. Employees suffering from mental fatigue are unable to manage emotions and feelings effectively. When they continue in a fatigued state, employees become emotionally exhausted. 

When employees are emotionally exhausted, depressive feelings can take over. This affects not only their work life but their personal life as well. It’s crucial that you, as the employer, recognize the symptoms of fatigue and provide resources to help employees manage these feelings effectively. 

3. Caution Fatigue

At the beginning of the pandemic, most people were ready and willing to do whatever was needed to stay safe. Increased hand-washing, mask-wearing, and avoiding large gatherings were adhered to. However, as the pandemic has dragged on, caution fatigue has increased. 

People crave normalcy, a break from the constant stress of being aware of their actions and others to keep themselves safe. In the workplace, ignoring or becoming lax with COVID-19 prevention protocols leads to more injuries, higher risk of transmission of COVID-19, and workers’ comp claims. 

5 Tips to reduce stress and fatigue

As an employer, reducing stress and fatigue is an essential part of avoiding costly mistakes or injuries. There are ways that you can help your employees combat fatigue and offer them ways to manage these challenges more effectively. 

1. Rules and regulations

Ensure that employees are aware of any rules and regulations you have regarding their safety and preventative precautions. Educate them on any state and federal regulations to protect their health and well-being. Employers and employees should be aware of any policies which violate these regulations and know where to report any infractions.

2. Keep an eye out

Create a safe work environment by watching for employees displaying signs of fatigue. 

The symptoms of fatigue are:

  • Yawning
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Having a hard time keeping eyes open
  • Reduced productivity
  • Increased mistakes

Encourage employees to also self-monitor and watch each other for these signs. Working together, you and your employees can create a safe environment for everyone and combat fatigue.

3. Create an environment of trust

Anxiety during this time is a normal reaction. Make sure your employees feel safe in coming to you with any issues. Offer breaks if you see someone struggling to concentrate or who looks tired. When you show that you care about your employees’ well-being, they feel safer and more secure in coming to you when they have an issue. 

If an employee doesn’t feel safe coming to their supervisor or manager, they may avoid the feelings of fatigue and create an unsafe situation for themselves and others.

4. Adjust shifts

Take a look at shift schedules and identify ways you can stagger shifts or even shorten them. Introducing a rotating shift pattern can give employees the rest they need to be safe and productive.

Set aside time to review and develop shift schedules that work for all employees. Try to avoid long shifts that are more than 8 hours if you are able. Adding breaks during shifts provides necessary down-time for employees and leads to increased productivity.

5. Use the BEGIN strategy

This strategy is beneficial for employees who are operating machinery but can be used for employees who sit for long periods of time. 

  • Breathe – Start with a deep breath before starting work.
  • Energize – Perform a few quick movements to increase circulation and energize the body. This can be as simple as shoulder shrugs or pacing a few times back and forth.
  • Gaze around – Look for potential risks or any changes in the work area.
  • Intensify – Check areas around the body, which may cause strain or injury. First between knees and feet, then at eye level, and around the body.
  • Notice broadly and deeply – Focus vision close up and far out on a single object. 

Incorporating these steps before work, on breaks, or at the end of a shift minimizes moments of stress and can pin-point times of fatigue.

What if an injury occurs?

Even with the best of intentions, accidents still happen. If you find yourself injured due to an employer’s lack of safety protocols, make sure you’re protected. At Sundquist Law Firm, there is a deep understanding of how devastating the injury is to you, and that is why we are committed to helping you through this difficult time. 

When working with Russell G. Sundquist, you are met with a Twin Cities and Hibbing workers’ compensation lawyer who is concerned about your well-being and ensuring that you get the best result as soon as possible. 

We have two locations ready to serve you and fight on your behalf to get the most compensation possible for your injury. Contact us today for your free consultation.