It's a big problem few people spend much time thinking about. An over-worked, over-tired condition has become the norm for many. But a good night's sleep – seven to nine hours – isn't just a novelty, it's a necessity.
Our bodies are programmed to be tired at night and alert during the day, but work often requires us to override those natural sleep patterns. Sleep disorders and sleep deficiency are hidden workplace issues that can affect every employer.
New research from NSC and the Brigham Health Sleep Matters Initiative reveals that a U.S. employer with 1,000 workers stands to lose about $1.4 million each year in absenteeism, diminished productivity and healthcare costs related to fatigue.
This cost calculator tool will give you a tailored fatigue cost estimate. We think you'll find eye-opening.
Are Your Employees Too Tired to Function Safely?
As fatigue increases, you are more likely to experience microsleep—a brief episode of unconsciousness that can last up to 30 seconds. This is especially dangerous in the workplace.
The National Sleep Foundation reports highly fatigued workers are 70% more likely to be involved in an incident resulting in injury, and workers with disturbed sleep are nearly twice as likely to die in a work-related incident. About 13% of all workplace injuries can be attributed to fatigue.
According to an
NSC survey, 43% of Americans don't get enough sleep, jeopardizing safety and impairing their ability to think clearly, make informed decisions and be productive. The survey found:
- 76% feel tired at work
- 97% of workers have at least one fatigue risk factor
- 80% have multiple fatigue risk factors
Who is Most at Risk?
Fatigue can happen to anyone, although
some are more at risk than others. About 15% of full-time employees work on shifts. Night shifts, long shifts, rotating shifts or irregular shifts all put employees at risk. These types of work schedules can upset circadian rhythm, the physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle.
- Safety incidents are 30% higher during night shifts
- The body is still in sleep mode before 7 a.m., when many people are driving to work
- The longer the shift, the higher the risk
Also at risk are people who sleep less than seven hours per night, workers who perform a task for extended periods or repeatedly perform a tedious task, parents of young children, people with sleep disorders or those taking certain medications.
What Employers Can Do
Employers can take steps to reduce the risk of fatigue in their workplaces and assist employees in getting enough sleep:
- Avoid assigning night-shift or long-shift schedules
- Provide adequate time to recover between shifts
- Give employees a voice in their schedules
- Provide frequent breaks
- Allow napping where feasible
- Educate employees about the importance of sleep
- Adopt a culture that promotes sleep
is Impaired Driving
Fatigue affects drivers in much the same way as alcohol: reduced attentiveness, slowed reaction time and impaired judgment. In fact, losing two hours of sleep is like having three beers. Driving while drowsy increases crash risk by nearly 300%, and it is estimated that 21% of all fatal crashes may involve a drowsy driver.
Crashes are the leading cause of workplace deaths. Find
more information on drowsy driving here.
The Institute of Medicine estimates that 50 million to 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. They can cause increased health problems, such as heart disease, obesity, depression and diabetes.
Sleep disorders also increase employer costs. Obstructive sleep apnea, for example, costs about $150 billion a year in higher healthcare costs, motor vehicle crashes and reduced productivity. Other sleep disorders include:
Employers are encouraged to offer sleep disorder screening programs for employees.
Bring Safety Home
Ultimately, individuals are responsible for the amount of sleep they get. These are steps everyone can take to get good sleep and improve their home and work life, as well as their health:
- Make sure to keep a consistent sleep schedule – even on weekends
- Don't eat large meals or exercise close to bedtime
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
- Check the side effects of medications
- Make your bedroom quiet, dark, and not too hot or cold
- See a sleep specialist if you or your partner experiences snoring or breathing pauses
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine; power down your phone and laptop, don't watch TV
- Check out the wealth of information in this
Harvard Medical School education program on sleep science, health and disorders
It's Almost Turkey Time!
About 2,000 Thanksgiving Day home fires occur every year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. In fact, Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, with unattended cooking the leading cause. Turkey fryers are often a culprit, and NSC and the National Fire Protection Association strongly discourage the use of turkey fryers.
See a video of the damage they can cause, and
get more holiday safety tips here.
Oh, and if we're sleepy on Thanksgiving,
we can't blame the turkey. It's apparently the result of stuffing ourselves with enormous amounts of food.
Nominations Open for NSC Green Cross Awards
It's time to nominate people and organizations making safety a top priority. The NSC Green Cross for Safety awards are the most prestigious in the industry. Submissions will be accepted through Nov. 30 in three categories:
- Excellence: Recognizes an organization for unrelenting pursuit of exceptional, transferrable safety practices
- Innovation: Recognizes a transformative approach to a long-held safety challenge
- Safety Advocate: Recognizes the advancement of best practices to raise awareness or change policy to prevent injuries and deaths
Winners will be announced May 23 at the awards gala in Chicago.
Learn more about the awards or
begin the nomination process.