It’s week 2 of National Safety Month and this week the focus is Workplace Impairment.
Recognizing and preventing workplace impairment are important steps in creating and maintaining a safe work environment. But what is workplace impairment?
When we hear the words “Workplace Impairment” it may be natural to think of substance abuse on the job. Substance abuse accounts for only a small part of workplace impairment.
Workplace impairment is anything that could impede one’s ability to function normally or safely. This includes not only substance abuse and prescription drugs but also factors such as stress, fatigue, and mental distress in your workers.
Recent studies show stress and mental distress as factors in reduced cognitive function and situational awareness, which can in turn affect workplace safety. A stressed worker is potentially an unsafe worker, as stress can cause a lapse in focus which can in turn be dangerous in the workplace.
Of course, everyone experiences stress in varying degrees, but not everyone copes with stress well. When there is stress at both home and work, this stress can pile up for a worker. Safety professionals in the workplace should keep an eye out for stressed workers, and provide resources to help stressed employees learn better stress management techniques.
Another way management can help workers with stress management is to help foster a positive work environment with good relationships with co-workers. Management can also help reduce stress by how they handle issues that come up in the workplace.
Fatigue, which can go hand in hand with stress, also affects many workers, and can affect their safety on the job, at home, and on their commute. At work, fatigue can be associated with nonstandard schedules, like night shift work or long hours.
Factors such as noise, heat, and poor air quality can increase fatigue among workers, as can repetitive task. If worker fatigue appears to be a systemic issue in your workplace, addressing environmental issues that cause fatigue and stress is a great first place to start.