New Study Indicates That Not Getting Enough Sleep Is Costing Us Our Lives at Work
For many people, the reality of trying to balance demanding work schedules with family life leaves them with far too little sleep. This is only worsened by the culture in the United States that arguably connotes getting sleep with being lazy in some circumstances.
However, according to a recent Safety+Health magazine article, many do not realize just how dire the situation has become, especially employers when it comes to the significant effects of US workers getting far too little sleep. A significant percentage of the workforce is today extremely fatigued on the job: Specifically, based on a recent survey, approximately 30 percent of workers get an average of less than six hours of sleep per night, with the following industries clocking in at even less:
- Night shift workers in warehousing and transportation;
- Night shift workers and social assistance and healthcare work;
- All night shift workers in general; and
- All workers in the manufacturing industry.
Contrary to popular belief, not getting enough sleep isn’t just connected to a lower quality of life: An estimated 13 percent of all workplace injuries are due to employees not having enough sleep and more than 20 percent of all fatal auto accidents reportedly involve drowsy drivers. In other words, the less sleep you get, the more likely you are to be injured or killed at work. And unfortunately, we as a society are underestimating this issue because, when workplace injuries are reported, they are rarely attributed to fatigue.
Not Getting Enough Sleep Is Like Drunk Driving
According to the scientists, sleep is crucial, and fatigue essentially accumulates with every hour we stay awake while robbing ourselves of necessary sleep. Physical symptoms of fatigue include loss of muscle coordination and increased risk of falling and dropping things, while cognitive effects include an increased tendency to take risks and get distracted. Researchers have actually associated being fatigued with being under the influence in terms of accidents: According to one study, individuals who were awake for 18 hours had the equivalent of a blood alcohol concentration of .05 percent.
Even A Minor Loss Of Sleep Translates To Danger
If you think that only the most extreme circumstances involving fatigue are the ones that actually translate to workplace incidents, you would be wrong: According to those same researchers, even mild fatigue experienced on a daily basis can affect workplace performance and safety. For example, researchers found that one simple minor change – daylight savings time in the spring – led to an almost six percent increase in mining injuries. In other words, individuals being deprived of less than one hour than they were used to of sleep translated into the manifestation of meaningful harmful effects at work in terms of their safety. What is perhaps equally troubling is the fact that, according to the same research, workers are rarely aware that they are fatigued and a potential liability, including when it comes to drowsy driving accidents.
If This Describes Your Work, You Could Be at Risk
According to the studies, the following work-related factors increase fatigue:
- People who have to take on night shifts;
- People who work long hours – i.e. shifts that exceed eight hours – and especially those who exceed 10 hours; and
- People in especially stressful professions, such as nursing and truck driving.
How Can Employers Fulfill Their Legal Obligation to Keep Workers Safe?
Remember that, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, it is a legal responsibility for your employer to make sure that you are kept safe in the workplace. Employers who are concerned about workplace injuries have been advised to put together what’s known as a fatigue risk management system in order to ensure this, which can include:
- A specific “fatigue management” policy;
- Information collected on fatigue-related hazards and how to create controls to mitigate those hazards;
- Ensuring that there is a reporting system for employees;
- Making sure that all incidents are investigated;
- Making sure that safety training and education are provided to employees;
- Providing support for sleep disorders;
- Focusing on making work schedules safe for workers; i.e. limiting long hours and night shifts, and if they cannot be avoided, making adjustments to help lighten potential stressors, such as adding in interspersed rest days and adequate breaks between shifts;
- Ways to minimize overtime;
- Offering workers choices where possible; and
- Purposely scheduling demanding tasks when people are more likely to be alert.
Contact Our Texas Workplace Injury Lawyers to Find Out More
If you have been injured on the job, contact our Houston workplace injury attorneys at The West Law Office to find out about your rights and receiving coverage for your injury.