Oct 2019

Workers’ lack of sleep is leading to more workplace injuries

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

Let’s be honest. Getting a full night of sleep is easier said than done. It’s recommended that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but many people, including those who work full-time, have a lot to juggle — jobs, family, health, finances, and a social life.

Sleep deprivation is a common problem that impacts a third of adults across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to WebMD, common symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

  • Poor memory
  • Depression
  • Increased perception of pain
  • Reduced hand-eye coordination
  • General fatigue that is worse than being alcohol-impaired

How does fatigue impact workplace safety?

The consequences of not getting enough sleep can spill over into the workplace and often worsens when employees are overworked, according to Safety + Health Magazine.

“We have a history of incentivizing people who work long hours with extra pay, promotions and recognition.” said Emily Whitcomb, senior program manager at the National Safety Council.

Data from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in 2012 breaks down the percentage of fatigued workers by industry. According to the report, these workers don’t get enough sleep:

  • 34.1% in the manufacturing industry
  • 44% of all night shift workers
  • 52.3% of health care and social assistance employees who work the night shift
  • 69.7% of transportation and warehouse employees who work the night shift

According to Whitcomb, roughly 13 percent of all workplace injuries are the result of workers not getting enough sleep. Unfortunately, fatigue doesn’t get the attention it deserves from employers.

“When employers fill out paperwork for an incident in the workplace, most are not asking about fatigue, how much sleep the person got or how many hours they worked in the last couple of days,” Whitcomb said.

Aside from not getting enough sleep at night, other common risk factors in fatigue-related injuries include:

  • Night shifts: Night workers are particularly at risk of workplace injuries. That’s because, biologically, we’re not wired to work overnight. Our circadian rhythm (our internal clock) naturally programs us to sleep at night and be active during the day.
  • Shifts longer than 8 hours: Research also shows that when employees exceed eight-hour work shifts, their likelihood of sustaining an injury increases. The risk increases by 13 percent at 10 hours and more than 27 percent at 12 hours. Experts even link longer shifts with decision-making errors and reduced attentiveness.
  • Workplace stress: Extended physical exertion and mental concentration can result in fatigue. When working long hours without adequate breaks, workplace stress can be dangerous and lead to chronic diseases.

What are the solutions to workplace fatigue?

Workplace accidents related to fatigue are preventable. Safety + Health offers tips that employers and workers should consider, including:

  • Establish a fatigue risk management system: Employers should consider implementing a set of policies, practices, and programs relating to workplace fatigue into an existing safety management plan.
  • Offer education and screening: Employers should educate employees on the dangers of workplace fatigue and promote healthy sleep habits. In addition, employees should be screened for potential sleep disorders and offered treatment options.
  • Focus on shifts: Employers should consider reducing overtime and offer frequent breaks for night workers. In addition, demanding tasks for night workers should only be given during times when employees are most alert and night shift workers should be given adequate time off between shifts.

If you were injured on the job due to fatigue, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits while you recover. This process, however, must be done right in order to avoid having your claim denied. That’s why you should consult with an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl. We can ensure that all paperwork is filled out correctly and advocate for a fair settlement.

Contact us online today to find out how we can help you.

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