ASSE foundation awards $300,000 grant to study workplace fatigue

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Foundation awarded a three-year, $300,000 grant to a University of Buffalo researcher who proposes the development of a sensor-based, real-time assessment system that will enable safety practitioners to better monitor workplace fatigue.
Working with the foundation's research committee, ASSE foundation trustees selected Lora Cavuoto’s “Advancing Safety Surveillance using Individualized Sensor Technology,” for its widespread applicability and potential to help solve a business problem for a broad range of industries. Studies have shown that fatigue is about four times more likely to contribute to workplace impairment than drugs or alcohol, said ASSE foundation chair Alexi Carli.

“We are proud to make this significant step, inquiring after new knowledge and investing in the future of our profession, and we look forward to sharing the impact with you as the results come in,” Carli said. “Not only will this research add to the knowledge base of our field, it will help create a business case for how to manage fatigue. Our goal is to connect our members to best practices.”

Cavuoto’s proposal takes an innovative approach, combining the technology of FitBits and the big data analytics of Pandora radio to identify and quantify the moment when fatigue sets in for each individual worker.

“Current methods do not account for many personal factors,” said Cavuoto. “Our approach will result in one objective number. Once a worker hits his “too tired” number, he will know it and can use one of our proven interventions.”

The grant represents the largest dollar amount given for a research project by the ASSE Foundation. The primary goal of this research program is to support the development of knowledge and innovative methods, systems and other appropriate interventions for advancing safety and health in the workplace. The secondary goal is to help develop and grow research talent in the safety and health field.

“Fatigue is an area that needs further investigation within business, particularly given the multi-shift and alternate work environments of today,” said foundation trustee James Merendino. “The true value of this research is less in the wearable technology and more in the ability to recognize and quantify the onset of fatigue and provide interventions.”