How Sleep Deprivation Can Contribute to Workplace Injuries

Source: Wavebreak Media Ltd - 123RF

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation is not only a workplace safety hazard but also a liability on a company’s finances.

The Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys website states: “Major historical disasters thought to be caused at least in part by sleep-deprived workers include the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in 1986 and the Exxon-Valdez oil tanker crash in 1989.

Fatigue was also believed to be a factor in the Chicago Blue Line train derailment in 2014 and the Metro North derailment in New York in 2015. “

The National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America Poll showed that, overall, U.S. adults are sleeping an average 6.9 hours a night, including both weekday and weekend sleep. Forty percent reported sleeping less than seven hours on weekdays, and 71 percent are sleeping less than eight hours on weekdays. The number of hours spent sleeping on both weekdays and weekends is trending downward.

Workers in the following industries are particularly at risk, insofar as their impaired decision-making can affect the health and safety of others:

  • Transportation
  • Healthcare
  • Construction
  • Law enforcement
  • Farming
  • Emergency response
  • Fishing
  • Machining and assembly

According to the CDC, only 65.2% of adults get the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep a night, while additional research estimates that workplace repercussions stemming from insufficient sleep cost the U.S. economy more than $410 billion annually.

Research shows that “employer efforts to encourage improved sleep hygiene and healthier habits result in improvements in sleep duration, sleep quality, and self-reported sleepiness complaints.”

Nancy Redeker, lead author and Yale School of Nursing professor, said in a May 13 press release, “Sleep deprivation contributes to accidents and injury in the workplace and other settings, as well as absenteeism and poor quality of life.”

In an article by Leor Lindner, in UBJ, “In addition to sleep deprivation’s impact on workplace safety, people suffering from a lack of sleep are also more likely to get sick and be out of work, growing the company’s cost.

Lindner added: “During sleep stages three and REM, the body repairs damaged tissue while growing more. If these stages do not occur or occur without consolidation, white blood cells will diminish as inflammatory cells multiply. “

The article continues: “Essentially, better sleep means a safer environment and healthier workers; a rested workforce is a safe, productive, and compliant workforce”.

Strategies by employers to ensure a better and safe work environment include:

  • Setting limits on the number of hours worked per 24 hours and per seven-day period;
  • Establishing a minimum of 10 to 11 consecutive hours off work per 24-hour period for workers to obtain at least seven hours of sleep;
  • Providing a sleep education program for all employees;
  • Promoting the use of short naps during work breaks; and
  • Modifying environmental factors, such as lighting, to promote worker well-being and alertness.