Workplace Burnout Can Make Jobs – and Roads – Less Safe

workplace fatigue accidentsRecently, Nike participated in a growing trend amongst companies. The organization granted its employees in the corporate office a week off to “destress.” Matt Marrazzo, the company’s Senior Manager of Global Marketing Science, published the announcement on LinkedIn. His message expressed both gratitude and encouragement for being a part of the team and recognizing the importance of taking time off to rest and recover. Marrazzo believes that the decision to show empathy to employees will benefit the work environment moving forward.

Nike follows in the footsteps of numerous companies that have prioritized the mental health of its employees. Hootsuite granted a Wellness Week to its employees and gave their employees a week off from July 5 to 12. LinkedIn permitted its employees a week off in April, and Citi Group established a “Zoom Free Fridays” policy in March.

This ongoing practice shows that companies are making efforts to emphasize the importance of their employees’ mental health. These actions can make the difference between employees who are well-rested and employees who experience job burnout, which can lead to workplace accidents.

But offices (home and otherwise), stores, and other businesses are not the only ones with burned out workers. The trucking industry is seeing an unprecedented demand for freight, at a time where the number of long-haul truckers is dropping. This puts an undue burden on the drivers, which in turn increases their risk of injury as well as the risk of truck accidents.

What is job burnout?

Job burnout is a position of physical or emotional exhaustion that a person experiences for several reasons. The World Health Organization (WHO) updated its definition of burnout and refers to it as an “occupational phenomenon.” Some symptoms of job burnout include a sense of reduced accomplishment, the loss of one’s personal identity, the inability to concentrate, irritability with coworkers or customers, and changes in sleep habits. All employees are at risk of experiencing job burnout, though some occupations are more stressful than others. Burnout causes employees to experience feelings of emptiness, exhaustion, and the inability to cope with life.

How does job burnout contribute to an increase in workplace accidents?

Employers ignore the potential hazards that job burnout can create at their own peril. Job burnout influences many aspects of the workplace, including workplace safety. Studies suggest that employees who experience job burnout are less aware of their surroundings. Falls, overexertion, and accidents that involve contact with machinery are more likely to occur when employees experience job burnout. Studies also suggest that employees who experience burnout struggle to maintain workplace safety procedures.

Why is truck driver burnout such a concern?

Over the past year and a half, truck drivers have been asked to work longer hours, especially when their loads are covered under the emergency HOS waiver. These men and women have been tasked with driving goods all over the country to keep up with demand. The mounting pressures of getting goods where they need to be as quickly as possible may cause drivers to speed or be reckless on the roads. It can force drivers to work while they are fatigued or otherwise unready to get back behind the wheel. Truck drivers, much like healthcare providers, have been going full steam for 18 months, and that kind of stress can lead to serious health conditions like heart attacks and strokes. It can also cause drivers to burn out more quickly.

Adding further stress is the fact that the truck population is an aging population. As more truckers retire rather than deal with the stress and headache of non-stop work, the country must contend with a trucker shortage. To address the truck shortage, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has started a new program to get 18-to-20-year-olds with CDLs behind the wheel. While this infusion of new recruits may help with the numbers, there is a risk that putting inexperienced drivers on long-haul routes will lead to more truck accidents, simply because they are not equipped to handle emergency situations. Even experienced drivers make mistakes when something goes wrong; inexperienced drivers may be more likely to err.

Furthermore, the excessive amount of driving increases the need for maintenance and repairs. When trucks are needed so desperately, trucking companies may take shortcuts when it comes to their inspections or try to push repairs back, rather than take their trucks off the road. If the driver, the mechanics, or any employee tasked with maintaining the fleet is too burned out to do his or her job correctly, it increases the risk of a crash or breakdown because of a faulty or damaged truck part.

Making a claim for work-relates injuries

Employees who sustain injuries in their workplace or in the course of their job duties can file for workers’ compensation. It doesn’t matter if burnout is the root cause or not, because workers’ compensation is a no-fault program run by the state. If you are ineligible for workers’ compensation, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit instead. One of our Maryland workers’ compensation attorneys can help you decide what path is best to take.

If you sustained injuries in a work-related accident, call the Maryland workers’ compensation attorneys of Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A. at 410-730-7737 or contact us. We have offices throughout the state. We offer free initial consultations and a flexible appointment schedule. Reach out to us to learn more about how we can help you get the benefits you require.