The Consequences of Chronic Fatigue Spike in Autumn

The Consequences of Chronic Fatigue Spike in Autumn

How your organization can reduce the risks and save lives

Did you know that autumn brings big increases in pedestrian fatalities? You may be wondering why this is relevant, when we usually chat about compliance as a way to improve safety in your business.

But the danger to pedestrians is your business if you or your employees are the ones driving. When employees are very tired, their risk of injury increases and their productivity can wane. Fatigue is a chronic problem for many people, and it can lead to serious health consequences such as an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Fatigued employees can be hazardous to themselves and the people around them, and your business might end up fielding an insurance claim, or worse.

Driver-related incidents increase in the fall

During the month after daylight savings time pedestrians walking at dusk are nearly three times more likely to be struck and killed by cars, according to a seven-year study of traffic fatalities conducted by Carnegie Mellon University.

What is causing this dramatic spike in pedestrian fatalities? The end of Daylight Savings Time in the fall means it is suddenly darker during the evening commute. Visibility is reduced; drivers and pedestrians may not yet have adjusted to the changes in conditions.

The increased darkness also causes tired drivers to become drowsy more readily. Studies have shown that being awake for more than 20 hours can impair a person’s driving as much as a blood alcohol level of 0.08. If a driver experiences any of these seven symptoms, it is time to pull over at the first safe place, take a break and get some rest.

7 signs of a dangerously drowsy driver

  1. Drifting from your lane
  2. Trouble holding your head up
  3. Slow reaction time
  4. Losing time — not remembering portions of your drive
  5. Missing exits or traffic signs
  6. Heavy eyelids
  7. Yawning

How do you know if your employees are at a greater risk for fatigue?

Working conditions and other demands can increase fatigue in your employees. You can begin to develop an effective prevention program once you understand some of the causes of fatigue. Consider these contributing factors:

  • Do your employees have long commutes?
  • Do your employees work long shifts, long work weeks, late night hours, or early morning hours?
  • Is it a noisy work environment?
  • Do you have a high level of employee absenteeism?
  • Less than 12 hours off between shifts?

What you can do to reduce the impact of fatigue on employees

Of course, an employer can’t completely eliminate the fatigue-causing circumstances in each employee’s life, but organizations can do a lot to mitigate the risks and impacts to employees during their time at work. Here is a list of ideas to get you started.

Reduce or eliminate long shifts, overtime and shift rotations. Even in the short-term, these can have negative impacts on employee health and morale. If shift rotations are necessary, forward-rotating shifts are better.

  • Improve the environment by reducing noise, improving lighting, and reducing clutter, all contributors to employee fatigue.
  • Support flexible schedules with personal control of breaks whenever possible. This allows employees to recover after completing strenuous or repetitive tasks.
  • Vary tasks when work is tedious or repetitive.
  • Provide a comfortable, dark, safe, cool place for short 20-minute recovery naps.
  • Offer an Employee Assistance Program to help people learn to manage stress.
  • Educate supervisors about fatigue management.
  • Educate employees about the importance of healthy sleep and how to get it. Include how to get diagnosed and treated for sleep disorders.

As fall solidly takes hold in the Pacific Northwest, we all need to be ready for safe driving on dark and rainy roads. Now is the time to make a plan to help employees stay energized and alert, whether they are at work or off the clock.

Yours in success,


Rebecca Wale

Chief Safety Consultant

Rebecca is the Chief Safety Consultant of Integrated Success HR Consulting & Coaching. She has extensive credentials and experience as an Environmental Health and Safety/Risk Management professional and leader across a variety of industries.  Her background in for-profit, non-profit and governmental organizations, and as a former OSHA compliance officer, means Rebecca knows how to design cost-effective programs that really work. Rebecca’s passion is translating her vast experience into straight-forward programs for busy leaders.