Study Finds Poor Sleep Linked to Safety

Source: budabar - 123RF

Are you sleepless in the saddle?

A study by Colorado State University (CSU) researchers has found that construction workers who reported more insomnia symptoms experienced more on-the-job “workplace cognitive failures:” lapses in attention, memory or action.

A reduction in safety behaviors and related minor injuries were also linked to poor sleep quality.

The research, which was part of an Oregon Healthy Workforce study, compared the workers’ self-reported sleep patterns with reports of safety behavior and workplace injuries.

Co-author, Rebecca Brossoit, a Ph.D. student in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at CSU, said cognitive failures could take the form of the following:

  • Forgetting correct work procedures or whether equipment had been turned off;
  • Unintentionally pressing a control switch on a machine; or
  • Accidentally starting or stopping the wrong machine.

Workers who described a failure to regularly achieve “sleep sufficiency” – feeling well-rested upon awakening – had a lower safety compliance, but did not necessarily have cognitive failures.

The study also found that sleep quantity was not related to any safety outcomes examined. In other words, in this study “sleep quality was more important than quantity for predicting workplace safety”, Brossoit explained.

Harvard Medical School reports that sleep deprivation critically impairs job performance, with potentially disastrous results. 

Sleep sharpens our cognitive ability, enabling us to think fast, act fast, and act smart. When your employees suffer insomnia, they are less capable in the workplace environment.

According to a 2008 National Sleep Foundation poll, almost a third of American employees report that daytime sleepiness interferes with their daily activities at least a few days each month. Thirteen percent would nap during work. Not only that, but the line between work and home is blurring.

Americans are working more, spending an average of nearly 4.5 hours each week doing additional work from home on top of a 9.5-hour average workday. And those who work long hours report greater impatience, lower productivity, and difficulty concentrating.

Without sleep, the human body becomes less predictable. Highly fatigued workers are 70 percent more likely to be involved in workplace accidents compared to workers with lower fatigue levels. One beer has the same impact on a person with 4 hours of sleep as six beers on a well-rested person.

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies estimates the cost of automobile accidents attributed to sleepiness to fall between $29.2 billion and $37.9 billion. Driver sleepiness is associated with 20 percent of all serious car crashes.