Warehouse Worker Fatigue Might Be A Bigger Problem Thank You Think

Jan 15, 2021
warehouse worker fatigue

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), worker fatigue costs employers in the US an estimated $136B in health-related lost productivity annually.

On average, the NSC finds that fatigued worker productivity losses cost employers between $1,200 to $3,100 per employee each year.

The problem is much greater than lost productivity. In warehouse and industrial environments, a tired worker can be a grave danger to themselves and the people around them.  Each year in the U.S., about 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift accidents, and about100 people die.  Many of these injuries and deaths are due to fatigued and inattentive drivers or pedestrians.  

Taking Steps to Prevent Worker Fatigue

There are many things you can do to help prevent fatigue in your labor force.  Some are simple, common sense answers, but others may involve changes to your business.

Scheduling: while you can’t give your workers a curfew or a bed time, you can create schedules that allow them plenty of sleep during their off hours and adequate break time while they’re on the clock. Also ensure that you have enough workers on each shift and you’re not overworking some employees.

Environment: make sure that the lighting in your warehouse is good, and that high traffic areas are especially well illuminated. Also check the thermostat, and make sure that you maintain a temperature that is comfortable for your workers. 

Training: your employees need to know the dangers of fatigue, and the potential hazards they face if they come to work tired or not feeling well.  They should also be able to identify other workers that don’t seem alert and have a non-threatening way to report concerns.

Ergonomics: look at your equipment and layout and consider the physical challenges of each of your workstations.  Do order pickers have to bend or stretch to pick heavy, high volume SKUs?  Do your forklifts have worn tires that cause excessive vibration for your drivers?  Consider everything, and make sure to get employee input in the process.

Pick Routes: minimizing time on the move not only helps keep your workers less fatigued, it also boosts your overall productivity and reduces your costs. Use your WMS data to make sure that your high volume SKUs are a short distance from your workstations.

Monitoring: you can also use WMS data to look out for signs of fatigued workers.  High pick error rates, slow performance and other data can give you visibility to struggling employees that may need assistance.