Alert at Work? Perceptions of Alertness Testing and Recommendations for Practitioners

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Occupational Health Science

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Around-the-clock, 24/7 operations are common in many industries, yet contribute to employee fatigue, which can have grave consequences for worker safety, public health, and the environment. Alertness testing is one option for identifying and mitigating issues related to fatigue at work. We review alertness testing options, including fatigue risk management systems and app-based tools, and share results from a study evaluating employee and manager perceptions of alertness testing. Despite a growing body of research on the validity of app-based alertness tests, it is also critical to understand how these tools are perceived by workers and management. To investigate perceptions of alertness testing, mixed-method data were collected from organizations across four safety-sensitive industries (i.e., a mining company, fire department, and two construction companies) that were in the process of implementing an alertness testing platform. Results suggest that employees and managers are open to and optimistic about implementing new alertness testing safety tools. Employees in work environments with strong managerial support for safety were particularly open-minded to alertness testing at work. However, some employees and managers expressed reluctance towards alertness tests. We provide recommendations for how occupational health and safety professionals can effectively select alertness tests and implement alertness testing. Ethical considerations related to identifying whether workplace alertness testing is needed, and how to protect employees and their data, are discussed.


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