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Is Employee Burnout a Threat to Workplace Safety?

For some employees, their job may seriously affect their long-term psychological health. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared worker burnout a diagnosable condition. That declaration should not come as a surprise to doctors and many employers. Those workers not personally affected by burnout may find safety in the workplace is compromised when other employees become too stressed and anxious. WHO stresses this condition is predicated on actual workplace behavior, not stressful events in a worker’s personal life that carry over into the job.

Employee Burnout Signs

While signs of worker burnout may vary according to industry and job specifications, stress produces many of the same symptoms no matter the type of employment. Suspect worker burnout when individuals exhibit any of the following behaviors on a regular basis:

  • Lack of energy or exhaustion
  • Increased negativity toward the job
  • Less efficiency
  • Distancing themselves mentally from the work
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Concentration problems
  • Irritability

In a worst-case scenario, worker burnout leads to accidents and even acts of violence.

No OSHA Standards

In some countries, worker burnout is recognized as a psychological occupational illness. That is not true in the U.S. under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which does not require employers to have policies in place or ways for employers to deal with workers suffering from burnout.

However, OSHA does have regulations regarding workplace safety, but these rules focus on the physical hazards, such as falls, use of protective equipment, and machine guarding. When a worker feels burnt out, they are less likely to pay attention to safety rules, putting themselves and co-workers in danger. For example, no employer wants a burnt out worker to use heavy machinery if the person is feeling angry and stressed. Burnt out workers may take out their frustrations on other employees, resulting in arguments, fights, and a difficult work atmosphere.

Addressing Worker Burnout

Supervisors and employers should become familiar with signs of worker burnout and address issues proactively before they get out of hand. Observing whether a worker is violating a basic safety rule, such as not wearing a hard hat in a designated location, is straightforward. However, ascertaining whether workers are burnt out or on the verge of becoming so is not.

Awareness campaigns are a good start so employees know they can report safety issues or illness. It is against OSHA regulations to discriminate against an employee filing such reports. Let employees know that resources are available and direct them to this material. Include worker burnout and symptom recognition as part of worker training programs. Addressing this occupational hazard may prevent tragedy.

Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Advocate for Injured Workers

If you or a loved one was injured at work or suffered an illness resulting from work conditions, you need the services of the experienced Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. To arrange a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 302-888-1221 today. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the state, including Dover, Newark, and Middletown.