Steps to Combat Workplace Fatigue

Today’s workforce puts in long hours and close to 15 million people work night shifts or some type of irregular hours. Long and irregular shifts disrupt sleep patterns, and are a contributing factor to workplace fatigue.

Workplace fatigue can cause unsafe work practices resulting in traffic accidents, impaired judgement, and overall poor performance. Fatigue accounts for 20% of fatal road accidents and long-term sleep deprivation is also linked to possible health issues such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, metabolic disorder, gastrointestinal conditions, and changes in emotion.

Certain industries see a higher rate of fatigue, particularly those with irregular or extended shifts such as those in the transportation, military, construction, and hospitality industry, as well as healthcare providers, first responders, firefighters, and police officers.

Within the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) space, workplace fatigue is a common complaint.

Work hours for EMS personnel vary, and they are tasked with delivering health care to the ill and injured in patients’ homes, on the roadside, and in other atypical environments. Often they execute this care while under significant time pressure and stress. All of these factors contribute to mental and physical fatigue.

Recent research shows that more than half of EMS personnel report severe mental and physical fatigue while at work due to poor sleep quality and poor recovery between shifts. This may also have an overflow effect from finding a balance between regular life and work.

On average, half of EMS personnel obtain less than 6 hours of sleep per day, yet the National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get seven to nine hours a sleep per day. It is not surprising that the number of fatigue-related safety incidences involving EMS personnel and their patients is on the rise.

Both the employer and the employee can take steps to combat workplace fatigue.

Steps for Employers

  1. Education and training – post comprehensive Workplace Fatigue Guidelines on how to mitigate the effects of fatigue. Regular training and guideline review with employees is recommended.

  2. Fatigue mitigation strategies - offer recommendations for caffeine use (in moderation), exercise and hydration. Maintaining normal body weight and minimizing fat and sugar may help reduce tiredness during bouts of fatigue while maintaining adequate fluid levels helps the body to function normally, and is one way to stay alert.

  3. Nap shifts – Offer a designated area for sleeping and the opportunity for sleep when possible.

  4. Survey instruments – measure/monitor and diagnose fatigue in the field.

  5. Shift duration – Schedule shifts for shorter than 24 hours at a time if possible. Rotate shifts clockwise if possible (go from a day shift to an evening shift, and an evening shift to a night shift).

Steps for Employees

  1. Daily sleep – Strive for 7-9 hours daily of uninterrupted sleep, in a comfortable sleeping environment.

  2. Overall health – Exercise and eat a balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight.

  3. Sleep timing – To be fresh for your shift, make sure sleep occurs within the last 8 hours before arriving to work.

  4. Napping – If a full sleep cycle isn’t possible, then nap. Nap duration should be less than 45 minutes or greater than 2 hours to account for a complete sleep/wake cycle.

  5. Sleep quality – Avoid drinks with caffeine prior to bedtime to improve sleep quality.

Being aware of the signs of fatigue, taking steps to manage shifts, training employees and providing fatigue mitigation strategies may help alleviate workplace fatigue and fatigue-related risks.

In addition to taking proactive steps to combat workplace fatigue, speak with a knowledgeable broker to understand what insurance coverage and risk management policies are available to protect your business and employees. Contact us today, for more information.

Brown & Brown is the 6th largest insurance intermediary in the country. More than 75 years of success has enabled us to identify new opportunities, adapt our solutions and services to meet changing market demands, and satisfy the various needs of our customers. Backed by national strength and local presence, with over 300 locations and 8,500 teammates strong, we have solutions to fit all your insurance needs.

The Benefits of Pre-Employment Stress Testing - Fit First Responders

Occupational injuries occur across the board, but work-related injuries in Emergency Medical Services workers run high, resulting in three times the lost workday rate of all private-industry workers, according to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Preventing on the job injuries by providing safety training, access to a fitness facility, and proper protective equipment and clothing is recommended but another consideration is pre-employment stress testing. By not hiring the injuries to begin with, the risk of a workers’ compensation claim is reduced.

The sole purpose of pre-employment stress testing is to reduce on the job injuries. Workers’ compensation claims can run into the tens of thousands. The most common EMS injury is overexertion, making the testing concept simple, hire employees physically capable to do the job. 

Physical Ability Tests (PAT) should be created to test for high levels of strength, mobility, and power. However, these types of tests can be controversial:

  • EMS departments running their own pre-hire PAT may introduce unknown bias in both the test taker and examiner, causing the test to be invalid.
  • Not all tests are standardized or compared to national statistics.
  • Testing is not always consistent, meaning tests could be given with or without the test taker wearing EMS gear.

A question to consider regarding the importance of a pre-employment stress test is, “are you OK with risk and liability exposures because employee fitness is poor?”

Ideally, these tests should be affordable to run in-house, and also be job specific, test human power generation, assess anaerobic capacity, and be legally defensible. Departments should work to remove the negative stigma surrounding these types of tests, as the goal is an injury free environment, and that begins with fit and healthy employees. 

Current Examples of Physical Ability Tests (PAT) Specifically for EMTs

Medic Mile as a potential PAT

  • 8 events
  • Simulate critical, physically demanding tasks
  • Different time limit for each event.
  • Test takes around 20 minutes
  • Need 7/8 points to pass

State of California

  • EMT Skills Competency Verification Form
  • Must perform 10 skills in front of an approved verifier

CARE Ambulances in Orange, CA

  • Physical test
  • Deadlift around 140 lbs
  • Back strength test
  • Simulated patient drags, lifts, stretcher moves
  • CPR compressions
  • Reapply in 12 month

Our strategic alliances with well-respected national carriers specializing in the ambulance sector give us insight when it comes to coverage, limits, and forms that really matter to our clients. Our professional insurance advisors understand the challenges of the ambulance industry and are available to answer your questions, and craft the best policies for your business. Contact us today, to learn more.

Brown & Brown is the 6th largest insurance intermediary in the country. More than 75 years of success has enabled us to identify new opportunities, adapt our solutions and services to meet changing market demands, and satisfy the various needs of our customers. Backed by national strength and local presence, with over 300 locations and 8,500 teammates strong, our Brown & Brown Socal team has solutions to fit all your insurance needs.

Employment Practices Liability Risks for the Ambulance Industry

Over the last two decades, employee lawsuits have risen over 400%, and wrongful termination suits have increased by over 200%, making Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) a vital line of coverage for any business owner. Within the ambulance industry, high employee turnover, predominantly part time labor, and regular interaction with disgruntled and impaired third parties, has made EPLI one of the most utilized lines of insurance coverage.  

For those that don’t know, EPLI provides business owners coverage for wrongful termination, discrimination, sexual harassment and other EEOC related claims from current employees, former employees, and even third party individuals that employees interact with.

In today’s litigious society, a disgruntled employee, a bitter applicant, a mishandled firing, or an angry patient that had a bad experience is all it takes to land you and your organization in court. Without EPLI coverage, you are not only uninsured, you are also responsible for defense costs. Consider the following two claims and ask yourself if you may need EPLI coverage.

SCENARIO #1:  Applicant claims discrimination against ambulance executives,  alleges he wasn’t hired due to physical disability.

The management team of an ambulance company recently extended an employment offer to an applicant contingent on a physical exam. During the interview process, the applicant failed to disclose that he had physical lifting disabilities and back pain and he later failed his physical exam. A letter retracting the offer was sent to the applicant and despite his knowledge of the job description, he still filed a lawsuit. This claim is still pending although legal fees and a potential settlement are expected to exceed $200k.

SCENARIO #2:  Employee alleges wrongful termination and retaliation.

An employee was terminated after sharing another employee’s confidential pay grade information with other employees. This employee later claimed that she was terminated because of medical issues affecting her attendance, her inability to meet billing deadlines and failure to attend continuing education seminars. In court, the employer was found to have not conducted a formal investigation of the confidential pay information and a jury later awarded the employee $336,000 in compensation. Defense costs were an additional $105,000.

Purchasing EPLI coverage will provide coverage for claims like this, but prevention is still the best remedy to avoiding EPLI claims. First, conduct background checks and develop a screening and hiring program for all candidates prior to hire. Sometimes the best hire you make is the one you don’t make. For employees, make sure that your human resource department regularly updates employee handbooks, provides detailed job descriptions and conducts periodic reviews of all employees. Most importantly, institute a zero tolerance policy against discrimination, substance abuse and any form of harassment. Make sure your organization has an “open door” policy in which employees can report infractions without fear of retaliation.  

Best Ambulance Insurance, a division of Brown & Brown, offers the most comprehensive EPLI policy available for the ambulance industry. We work to act as an extension of your risk management team, by helping you prevent claims from being filed to begin with. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out today so we may provide you with a complimentary review of your current program.