Safety & HCM Post

Fatigue Has Many Causes

You are what you eat, drink and smoke. Adding those factors to such things as shift work, prescription and non-prescription drugs, lifestyle, ergonomics, working environments, stress and physical condition can make you a candidate for on-the-job fatigue.

The good news is that unlike metal fatigue, human fatigue is reversible, according to chiropractor and occupational health specialist, Dr. Andy Pieren.

“Fatigue causes many accidents and injuries to employees. The employers have been paying billions of dollars, due to the consequences of fatigue, including slower production and absenteeism.”

Human alertness is controlled by people’s biological clocks, which are wired so that people work during the day and sleep at night. However, a great many work rotating shifts, or straight night shifts, and almost anyone who does so knows all about the issues of fatigue and insomnia.

“Humans have their natural lows in alertness after lunch and midnight,” says Pieren, who operates a Milwaukee-area consulting practice called Wellness Strategies.

Many other things can make the problem worse, such as heavy smoking, alcohol or drug abuse, taking prescription drugs, drinking too much coffee and eating too much sugar.

“The dietary habits of workers can directly affect their level of alertness. Diet-induced fatigue can stem from the combination of high-fat and carbohydrate foods or caffeinated beverages.”

Although a cup of coffee can be beneficial in increasing alertness, too much coffee or a cup taken too close to bedtime can also disrupt sleep and leave workers feeling dragged-out the next day.

Pieren notes the average American eats more than 134 pounds of refined sweeteners (sugars) every year. While digesting sugar causes an immediate energy boost, the downside is that it is followed by a sudden drop in energy, leaving the person feeling more drained than before the sugar was consumed.

Environmental and chemical factors in a workplace, including chemical exposure, vibration, noise levels, internal air quality and illumination, can also cause fatigue.

“Inadequate air ventilation often contributes to reducing the alertness of employees,” says Pieren. “Extreme external temperatures, hot and cold, also can be a factor for tiredness at work.

If you are experiencing fatigue, consider some solutions proposed by Pieren:

  • Get rid of sleep debt by going to bed earlier and catching some additional shut-eye. A 15-minute power nap is a wonderful tool for recharging your batteries.
  • If you are a couch potato, start taking some exercise, but not before consulting a doctor to ensure you are healthy enough to embark on a fitness program.
  • Cut back on your coffee, sugar, tobacco and alcohol consumption.
  • Take quality vacations, where you can forget about your stresses.
  • Ask your health and safety committee about installing full-spectrum lighting, which increases alertness the same way natural sunlight does.
  • A number of health problems, ranging from thyroid dysfunction to depression, can cause fatigue. Book a physical examination to make sure there isn’t a medical cause behind your fatigue.
Bongarde Editorial

Bongarde Editorial

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