National Safety Month: Fatigue and Workplace Safety

Fatigue is one of the most overlooked safety hazards throughout all forms of industry despite the fact that 13 percent of workplace injuries are attributed to fatigue according to studies. 70 percent of workers report being tired on the job which can lead to accidents ranging from minor all the way to fatal. Fatigue can not only cause workplace injuries, but also lead to lost productivity which can cost an employee thousands of dollars throughout the year. Fatigue is a prevalent issue in all industries and types of work. Some common causes of workplace fatigue include: not getting enough sleep, shift work, alcohol use, and undiagnosed sleep disorders.

Hazards of Sleep Deprivation

Not getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep can affect a worker's cognitive performance which will greatly increase your chances of getting hurt on the job, productivity, and can also lead to adverse health effects both short term and long term. When you do not get enough sleep and are fatigued you will experience a loss of vigilance as well as a decrease in both accuracy and judgment. When you drive while fatigued it is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol, which means you are 4 times more likely to crash.

Sleeping the recommended 7-9 hours is a vital part of functioning properly, if you were to sleep for only 6 hours a day for 2 weeks you would perform at the same level as someone who skipped a full night of sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can cause long-term health effects such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, depression, and there is evidence that sleep deprivation may be related to cancer.

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Workplace Fatigue Tips

One of the most common causes of sleep deprivation is working shift work and night shifts. There are over 15 million Americans that work some type of shift work so getting into a schedule and sleeping for the recommended hours can be a challenge for many of them. Some of the following are tips for getting more sleep and dealing with the situations if you haven’t gotten enough sleep:

  • If working the night shift, attempt to emulate nighttime conditions by blocking out all sunlight and trying to block out noise as best you can
  • Getting into a routine of sleeping at the same time each day can help you adjust to nontraditional work hours
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol several hours before you are planning on going to sleep
  • If you are feeling fatigued before your shift starts take a walk to energize yourself
  • Drink caffeine at the beginning of your shift
  • Take short breaks to move whenever possible
  • Try to not work overtime to the point that it will disrupt your sleep schedule
  • Employers should give employees at least 10 consecutive hours of protected off-duty time to allow their employees ample time to sleep

For anyone who is having a hard time sleeping or experiencing some sort of fatigue, you should remember A.C.E.S.

A: Alcohol – After drinking alcohol you may feel drowsy, however, it actually disrupts your sleep cycle and can cause poor-quality sleep.

C: Caffeine – Taking any form of a stimulant including caffeine can disrupt your sleep pattern and should be avoided for 6 hours before you intend to sleep.

E: Environment – Try to keep your bedroom cool, dark, and as noise-free as possible. If sleeping during the day keep the thermostat low and consider blackout curtains.

S: Screens – The light produced from your phones, TV, computers or laptops can prevent your body from producing melatonin and should be avoided at least a half-hour before bed.

Sleep fatigue can affect many facets of someone’s personal and work life that can result in adverse effects. If you treat sleep as a priority and follow the tips for better sleep and drowsiness prevention you can see an improvement in your day and productivity.

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