South Carolina workers face many hazards in the workplace. Heavy machinery, toxic chemicals and other dangerous working conditions frequently lead to workplace illnesses and injuries. However, it seems lack of a good night's rest can be just as hazardous to workers.
Worker fatigue is one risk factor that has not been well studied, but is emerging as a significant predictor of workplace accidents. The good news is that because workers' compensation is a no-fault system, a worker's failure to ensure they are well-rested (leading to dangerous mistakes) generally won't be a factor in whether an on-the-job injury is compensated. When workplace accidents do occur, an experienced Columbia workers' compensation attorney will fight for our client's legal right to workers' compensation benefits that offset medical bills and a portion of lost wages.
When Fatigue Leads to Tragedy
Fatigue in the workplace is not a new problem. In fact, it has been the cause of some of the most infamous workplace accidents in recent history. EHS Today reports that the Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disasters were all caused by worker fatigue. These accidents caused unnecessary deaths and severe health risks to an unsuspecting public. They also incurred millions of dollars in property damage.
Just how common is the problem of worker fatigue? A study by the National Safety Council found that a staggering 97 percent of respondents had a least one risk factor for workplace fatigue. Eighty percent of these workers had multiple risk factors. The problem isn't just limited to the United States. The governments of Alberta, Canada and the United Kingdom have also published information aimed at raising awareness regarding the dangers of worker fatigue.
South Carolina Accident Rates, And What Employers Can Do About Them
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, in 2013, more than 35,000 nonfatal accidents were reported among workers in South Carolina’s public employment sector. This equates to 2.9 cases per 100 full time workers. While this was below the national average of 3.3, it still reveals that workplace injuries are a significant problem for South Carolina workers.
In studying the problem, the National Safety Council identified nine risk factors for worker fatigue. These include: shift work; high-risk hours (work during the late night or early morning); demanding jobs; long shifts; long weeks; sleep loss; no rest breaks; quick shift returns (fewer than twelve hours between shifts); and long commutes. Some of these risk factors are, themselves, a combination of many other factors.
For example: sleep loss can be caused by changing shift schedules which do not allow the worker to establish healthy sleep habits. It can also be caused by sleep apnea - a condition which wakes the patient multiple times each night and interferes with restful sleep. This can create serious risks in dangerous work environments. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibits those who suffer from sleep apnea from obtaining a commercial driver’s license. Once the condition has been treated, the driver may regain his or her status as medically qualified to drive.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a workplace accident, be sure to contact an experienced Columbia workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible. You have the right to workers' compensation coverage for your medical bills. It is also important to hold employers accountable for unsafe working conditions in order to prevent future workplace accidents.