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Workers' compensation may be paid for occupational fatigue

There is no doubt that fatigue represents a substantial contributor to workplace injuries in New York City and throughout the country. Sometimes the worker may attempt to sleep too little and work too many jobs and hours at one time. In other instances, fatigue may be created by the job itself or the hours when the job must be performed. In that sense, occupational fatigue is a workplace illness or injury that is compensable by workers' compensation benefits when it manifests in the worker's disability and inability to temporarily or permanently continue doing the job.

The causes of occupational fatigue may include long hours, a heavy workload, sleep deprivation, environmental or medical factors. Fatigue is in some ways a universal occurrence in the workplace. A distinction must be made, however, for purposes of defining when such a condition is a work illness that is compensable.

A worker afflicted with occupational fatigue can manifest in slower reaction times, an increase in work mistakes and cognitive disorders or deficits. Fatigue is a problem to all industries but the focus is often on its prevalence among shift workers and the health care and transportation industries. Working excessively long hours in harsh environmental conditions can be a prescription for a worker to become disabled on the job.

Environmental factors may include fumes, excessive noise, pollution and a variety of other issues. Driving machinery in industrial settings can lead to fatigue over a period of successive hours without a change in pace or adequate break periods. Employers in New York City and elsewhere must become knowledgeable on the issues surrounding work fatigue, especially so that they can bring the subject to the attention of the employees themselves. Employees should not hesitate to immediately file a workers' compensation claim and get medical attention right away if they suspect a disabling condition caused by occupational fatigue.

Source: safetyandhealthmagazine, "Fatigue and worker safety", Sarah Trotto, Feb. 23, 2017

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