Energy leaders turning blind eye to worker fatigueNews added by Benefits Pro on April 9, 2014

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Joined: September 07, 2011

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By Dan Cook

The folks in the corporate offices aren’t worrying about whether the troops in the energy business the field are getting burned out. But those in charge of managing the troops are concerned, and they believe that fatigue reduces overall workforce productivity and is at the root of production glitches.

This disconnect between the C-Suite and front-line managers around the issue of fatigue was a major finding in a survey commissioned by Kronos Inc. and conducted by the publication and research group PennEnergy.

Depending upon a company's size and whether it has programs in place to manage worker fatigue, employee burnout in the energy biz could cost large players as much as $2.4 million annually, the survey estimated. Additionally, when the survey compared the effects of regular night shifts on worker fatique vs. long days (20 hours) or consecutively worked days (up to 14 without a day off), the outcome was in favor of night shifts. (The energy industry, like the medical profession, is known for such work schedules.)

“The Effects of Employee Fatigue and its Management in the Energy Industry” surveyed frontline managers, directors, and C-level executives working for oil and gas, oil services, and power sectors. Companies that participated in the survey represented approximately 350,000 employees.

The top four influences of employee fatigue were:
    1. The number of hours worked per day;
    2. number of consecutive days worked without more than 24 hours off;
    3. total hours worked in a week;
    4. working mostly nights.
When asked to list the major negative outcomes of worker fatigue, survey respondents listed, in order of importance, productivity losses, quality issues, and minor accidents. Overall, the respondents estimated that “fatigue causes 10 percent of lost productivity and 12 percent of quality issues in the energy sector,” the survey reported.

But the C-Suite/frontline manager disconnect began to show itself when each group was how much they assign fatigue as the cause of productivity and quality issues. “Frontline managers attribute 40 percent more to productivity and quality issues to fatigue than C-level respondents,” the report found.

The survey also found that less than half of companies surveyed appear to have “effective internal fatigue guidelines,” perhaps because, as the survey also found, C-Suite residents “consider internal fatigue-related guidelines to be less important, compared to frontline managers.” And less than 10 percent of those companies has any system that enables worker fatigue to be monitored in real time.

“The survey shows a major disconnect concerning employee fatigue in the energy industry. Employee fatigue isn’t being thoroughly addressed by many energy companies but it can have a major impact on business, even affecting the bottom line. Managing employee fatigue is an area in need of urgent attention if employers want to ensure and improve productivity,” said Hilton Price, petroleum content editor, PennEnergy.

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