As businesses struggle to adjust to life under COVID-19, nurses and doctors remain on the front-lines, risking their lives to save others. Recent headlines read, "Doctors in Wuhan break down crying after days without sleep” and “Fear and fatigue in Wuhan's virus-hit hospitals.”
Overworked and fatigued, healthcare workers have come under fire for neglecting to re-apply hand sanitizer, or removing gloves improperly. Such small mistakes caused by a lack of energy and awareness then leave hundreds at risk. Certainly, no industry is more tired and overwhelmed than the health care workers battling COVID-19. However, the dangers and accidents caused by working through fatigue are palpable in any industry.
So, if you're one of the few essential businesses operating in the midst of this pandemic, use this time to make health and safety the priority it should always be. Whether it's illness or fatigue, being vigilant and open with coworkers can stop disastrous accidents before they happen. Often, effective prevention can be just a 5-minute check-in with employees. Here's one quick way to ensure your workplace continues to function as a safe, healthy, and productive business throughout COVID-19. It's surprisingly simple and low-tech, yet loads of businesses have reported having great success using it.
- At the start of the shift, ask all employees to gather around (6 feet apart).
- Ask them to consider their level of alertness on a scale of 1-5.
- Call for a show of hands. Who would consider their alertness level below 4? Below 3? 1 or 2?
- Anything below 3 is cause for concern. Employees who report feeling less alert than a 3 require further attention in order to determine and address the underlying cause. Potential causes could be lack of sleep, illness, pain, and even mental or emotional issues.
- Speak to the employee to find a solution. If they feel ill, follow your company protocol to send them home or seek medical attention. If fatigue is the culprit, use one of these methods to combat it without compromising productivity: 6 Countermeasures for Fatigue.
- Repeat the Safety Check-in after lunch-time. This is when our circadian cycles take their "post-lunch dip" and getting together to rally and reassess employee alertness will be critical in maintaining safety the rest of the shift.
As you establish this practice, introduce some simple solutions to remedy for common culprits like fatigue. Below are some tips to share with your employees, they've worked wonders with our clients.
Easy Fatigue Busters:
- Take a 10-15 min break to sit down and gather your thoughts without distraction.
- Take frequent short breaks to re-hydrate with water or Gatorade – be sure to limit the intake of sugars.
- If you are a coffee drinker, grab a cup to ward off sleepiness. Just make sure to stop before your heart starts pacing, and don't drink any 5 hours before bed.
- For sedentary workers, get up and walk around to get your blood flowing. Maybe stop for a quick chat or have a laugh with a coworker.
- If possible, join forces with a coworker to get your tasks done together.
- Pending boss approval, take a 15~20 min nap in a sitting position. Make sure to give yourself at least 10 min to wake up after the nap.
- Work in an area that has increased lighting or noise, such as music.
- Reduce the ambient temperature to 72 F or below.
- If nothing else, pop in a piece of gum. Mint gum especially is thought to increase blood flow to the brain, boosting focus and alertness.
The 5-Minute Safety Check-in is most effective in work environments where employees are not afraid to acknowledge when they're feeling less than 100%. Especially in these difficult times, it's important that we remain understanding and empathetic to the needs of our coworkers. Doing this at your safety check-in will help facilitate health and safety discussions that employees may otherwise be hesitant to begin on their own. So, encourage honesty and objectivity from your employees, and respond with understanding.
If you're looking for a more accurate, objective, and scientific way to ensure your employees are fit for work, talk to us about the AlertMeter app. It's a 60-second cognitive test taken on a touchscreen device, phone or laptop that provides instant feedback on each employee's alertness level, and prevents illness or fatigue related accidents.
Click here to see how AlertMeter can help keep your essential business healthy, safe, and productive. Or call us at (303) 319-3505.