The Impact of Sleep on Safety

Tired WorkerWhat factor at least partially caused the following disasters?

  • The incident at Three Mile Island nuclear facility in 1979.
  • Bhopal Union Carbide tragedy in 1984.
  • Chernobyl in 1986.
  • The space shuttle Challenger accident in 1986.
  • Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.
  • Estonia ferry disaster in 1994.

Here’s a hint. The commonality is also related to each of the following:

  • A 32% reduction in performance and alertness in the workplace.
  • Impaired ability to think and process information.
  • Relationship problems.
  • Inability to pay attention.
  • Twofold higher risk of sustaining an occupational injury.
  • Unscheduled absenteeism.
  • 20% of all motor vehicle crashes.

What’s the link? What do all of these have in common? Sleep deprivation.

The Problem of a Lack of Sleep

CNN reports that doctors believe fatigue to be “dangerous.” Additionally, research shows that “America’s sleep problems have reached epidemic proportions, and may be the country’s number-one health problem.”

The National Commission on Sleep Disorders, as reported by CNN, believes the price tag for sleep deprivation in the workplace is $150 billion a year in higher stress and reduced workplace productivity. This is because, as The State Compensation Insurance Fund reports, that “sleep deprivation or fatigue affects a worker’s manual dexterity, reaction time and alertness.”

Sleep deprivation sets the stage for potential safety hazards and serious accident and costs employers money as well as often puts the public’s safety at risk and this in addition to the price individual employees pay as they struggle with the impact of a lack of sleep.

Fortunately, sleep deprivation has many possible solutions.

Suggestions for Employees

The individual employee must first determine if sleep deprivation is a problem. While difficulty sleeping and/or lack of sleep are often obvious, many sleep problems are not easily identified.

First, determine if you are getting enough sleep. The CDC reported that most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night but most are actually getting less than 6 hours.

Then, if sleep appears to be a problem, look for ways to improve your sleep and to create patterns and conditions that promote healthy sleep. This includes maintaining a regular sleep/wake schedule, establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, avoiding or reducing caffeine and nicotine, and making sure your bed and pillows are comfortable.

Other suggestions including learning to leave stress at the office by writing the next day’s to do list before leaving work for the day and establishing a relaxation routine for the drive home.

The vast majority of sleep problems lie within an individual’s ability to control. Your “sleep hygiene” can significantly impact your ability to get a good night’s sleep, wake feeling refreshed, and remain alert throughout the day.

Be aware that there are sleep conditions that you cannot fix on your own, and know “When to Call a Doctor About Sleep Disorders.”

Suggestions for Employers

While the onus for getting enough sleep lies primarily with the individual, employers can promote the idea of adequate sleep by implementing ideas such as the following:

  • Promote regular rest by the amount of time off employees receive.
  • Provide regular rest breaks during the workday.
  • Avoid shift lengths, such as those often found in hospitals, that often add to the number of mental errors.
  • Avoid requiring work beyond a regular shift, especially if a worker is obviously tired.
  • Educate workers on the effects of inadequate sleep.

While employers are definitely limited in their impact on how much sleep employees get, they can still promote the importance of proper sleep as well as integrate information about sleep-deprivation into workplace safety programs.

The problem of sleep deprivation will not go away on its own. Employers and employees must take steps to promote the value of adequate sleep. Doing so, or not, will significantly impact our safety and well-being.

Eye Injuries High During July 4th Weekend

Remember to use eye protection while handling fireworks.

We Americans love to celebrate our nation’s birth. Typical Independence activities may include a long day at the beach, water sports, barbeques, and, of course, fireworks!

Great family memories of the 4th of July are no accident. More injuries are reported during the Independence weekend than any other time of the year. To make sure your family memories of the 4th of July are all happy ones, be aware and be prepared.

Of course you’ll need comfortable sunglasses for that long day in the sun, but don’t forget to protect your eyes during night activities as well.

The facts are astounding. Each year, over 10,000 Americans seek treatment in emergency rooms from fireworks-related injuries. Nearly half of these injuries occur during the July 4th holiday weekend. Most frequently, fireworks-related injuries involve the eyes — nearly a third of these ER visits are for serious eye injuries.

Fireworks can shoot off in the wrong direction. Precautions we all need to take when using fireworks:

  • Always have adult supervision
  • Always use protective eyewear
  • Always use fireworks outside and have a bucket of water and a hose nearby
  • Never throw or point fireworks at someone, even in jest
  • Never relight a dud
  • Light only one firework at a time
  • Don’t allow kids to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event as some may still be ignited and can explode at any time.

If an eye injury occurs, don’t touch or rub it, as this may cause even more damage. Also, don’t flush the eye out with water or attempt to put any ointment on it. Instead, cut out the bottom of a paper cup, place it around the eye, and immediately seek medical attention —

Prepare to have a Fun and Safe – 4th of July!