How Understaffing Leads to Work Injuries

One of the leading stories in the U.S. right now is about the labor shortage, and how companies (from healthcare to hospitality) are having a hard time filling roles or attracting new hires. Regardless of what caused the labor shortage, one of the major effects is understaffing. The workers who are already in the workplace are spread thin, and that level of understaffing has consequences.

In today’s blog, we’re discussing what those consequences are, what it means for worker safety, and what you can do if you’re injured at work.

Understaffing Leads to More Errors

One of the first consequences of understaffing is a higher rate of error. Errors can come from rushing due to low staffing, or they come from actual gaps in workplace responsibilities. In either case, errors are a serious safety concern, especially when you work somewhere that utilizes heavy machinery or bulk items. Grocery stores, warehouses, offshore vessels, and oil rigs alike all see a rise in life-threatening mistakes when there’s not enough staff.

Understaffing Creates Lapses in Safety

In situations where crews need to do the same amount of work with fewer hands, the natural result will be ignoring safety regulations to “get the job done.” Unfortunately, that translates into serious injury more often than not.

For instance, it’s common on understaffed offshore vessels for workers to lift heavy equipment without help or assistive gear. For workers that regularly have to lift items that weigh over 100 pounds, that could be (and often is) a career-ending decision. Without adequate staff, workers are forced to make unsafe decisions, and that almost always leads to injury.

Understaffing Results in Physical Exhaustion

The fewer employees there are, the more work each person becomes responsible for. The more work each person does, the more likely they are to suffer repetitive stress injuries, make dangerous mistakes, or simply suffer health problems from overwork. Workplaces with low staff typically experience higher turnover the longer they remain understaffed.

As a result, understaffing actually triggers a vicious cycle. When workers miss work due to exhaustion or injury, remaining workers become increasingly stressed, which puts them at higher risk of injury. The only way for businesses to prevent these injuries is to adequately staff their workplaces, or adjust expectations according to the staff they do have.

Employers Have a Responsibility to Staff for Safety

Companies have a responsibility to keep their employees safe and mitigate risk. A major part of maintaining workplace safety is ensuring there’s enough staff to handle the workload. Skeleton crews might work in the short-term in some contexts, but in general, fewer workers usually means more mistakes, more safety problems, and more injuries.

If you’ve been injured in a workplace accident due to understaffing, speak with Clayton, Frugé & Ward in a free consultation. We can talk about what happened to you and discuss your recovery options.