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Reducing Fatigue in the Workplace

Woman working in a warehouse sitting to take a break.

Fatigue can affect any worker in any job and may have serious consequences for worker safety and health. Providing easy-to-understand information for employers and workers about ways to reduce fatigue will help to minimize risks and improve the safety of all workplaces. Examples include a recent NIOSH Science Blog on managing fatigue for retail workers and the NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours.

How does fatigue affect workers?

Fatigue has been described as “a feeling of weariness, tiredness or lack of energy.”1 Fatigue-related safety issues occur every day in the workplace.

Workers who are fatigued might exhibit negative effects of fatigue, such as:

  • Lacking energy to do their jobs safely or effectively.
  • Having trouble paying attention or taking longer to react to what happens around them.2
  • Taking more risks that may lead to errors or injuries.2

Fatigue-related errors and injuries can happen in the workplace and beyond. Researchers estimate that close to 1 in 8 of all workplace injuries may relate to fatigue.3 The effects of work-related fatigue can spill over into personal lives and impact public safety. One dangerous example of this spillover happens when fatigued workers drive on public roads. More than 1 in 5 of all fatal vehicle crashes involves a drowsy driver.3,4,5

What causes fatigue?

Work-related fatigue is complex and can stem from many sources.6 Individual-level factors, such as a person’s age, health, lifestyle choices, and nonwork responsibilities all contribute to fatigue.6 Work-related factors, such as night shift work and extended work hours, are often linked with fatigue.6 These kinds of work schedules can disrupt or shorten workers’ sleep.

Other work-related factors that contribute to fatigue include:

  • Performing prolonged physically or mentally demanding tasks.4,7
  • Following repetitive routines.4,7
  • Working in extreme temperatures.7
  • Feeling stress.7

Because fatigue can result from many factors, it can be difficult to manage. No single solution fits all situations, organizations, or people.

How can we reduce fatigue in the workplace?

Employers can make changes to help workers reduce fatigue. One way is to create work schedules that give workers sufficient time to rest and recover.8 The length of shifts, short and frequent breaks, and days off in between shifts are all things that employers can consider to limit work-related fatigue.9 Employers can also give workers information about fatigue reduction strategies that is easy to understand and to use. All employers and workers benefit from learning ways to manage work-related fatigue.

Learn More About Fatigue and Work Research and Activities at CDC

NIOSH: Work and Fatigue

NIOSH: Driver Fatigue on the Job


  1. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Fatigue; [reviewed 2019 Apr 16; cited 2020 Dec 12]; Available from:
  2. Lerman SE, Eskin E, Flower DJ, George EC, Gerson B, Hartenbaum N, et al. [2012]. Fatigue risk management in the workplace. J Occup Environ Med 54(2):231–258,
  3. Di Milia L, Smolensky M, Giovanni C, Howarth H, Ohayone M, Philip P [2011]. Demographic factors, fatigue, and driving accidents: an examination of the published literature. Accid Anal Prev 43(2):516–532,
  4. Techera U, Hallowell M, Stambaugh N, Littlejohn R [2016]. Causes and consequences of occupational fatigue: meta-analysis and systems model. J Occup Environ Med 58(10):961–973,
  5. Tefft BC [2014]. Prevalence of motor vehicle crashes involving drowsy drivers, United States, 2009–2013. Washington, DC: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety,
  6. Dawson D, McCulloch K [2005]. Managing fatigue: it’s about sleep. Sleep Med Rev 9:365–380,
  7. Sieber W, Chen G, Krueger G, Lincoln J, Menéndez C, O’Connor M [2022]. Research gaps and needs for preventing worker fatigue in the transportation and utilities industries. Am J Ind Med 65(11):857–866,
  8. Hulsegge G, Coenen P, Gascon GM, Pahwa M, Greiner B, Bohane C, Wong IS, Liira J, Riera R, Pachito DV [2023]. Adapting shift work schedules for sleep quality, sleep duration, and sleepiness in shift workers. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2023, (9),
  9. Wong IS, Popkin S, Folkard S [2019]. Working time society consensus statements: a multi-level approach to managing occupational sleep-related fatigue. Ind Health 57(2):228-244,