The Connection Between Excessive Sleepiness and Workplace Accidents Update 05/2022

A lack of sleep at night and a feeling of exhaustion throughout the day isn’t unique. More than a third of Americans fall short of the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of the most common causes of excessive daytime sleepiness is a lack of sleep, which may impact as many as 18 percent of the American population.

Sleep deprivation and daytime exhaustion can have major effects both personally and professionally if they are not addressed. Both physical and mental health are affected by a lack of sleep. There is a higher risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and obesity among people who don’t get enough rest at night. Anxiety and despair might be a problem for them.
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness is a Curse – Why so? - Fictionistic

To put it another way, being drowsy at work puts workers at risk of serious injury or death in the workplace. Additionally, sleep deprivation has a major impact on other areas of job performance, including productivity, task management, and achieving goals,

Sleep Deprivation Impacts Safety

The human body becomes more unpredictable when it is deprived of sleep. Workers with high levels of weariness are 70% more likely to be involved in a workplace accident than those with lower levels of fatigue. Having just four hours of sleep has the same effect as six beers on a well-rested individual.

Sleepiness-related car accidents cost an estimated $29.2 billion to $37.9 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Twenty percent of fatal car accidents are the result of fatigued driving.

What Is the Relationship Between Sleep Deprivation and Workplace Accidents?

Sleep deprivation is clearly linked to occupational accidents, as numerous studies have demonstrated. Employees who are sleep-deprived are 70% more likely to get into a working mishap than those who are not. Workplace injuries can be exacerbated by long work days and little sleep. When it comes to work-related accidents, workers with insomnia are far more likely to be involved than those who do not suffer from sleep difficulties.

The repercussions of these occupational mishaps can be grave. Researchers in Sweden studied over 50,000 workers and found that the risk of death from an occupational accident was more than double for those who reported sleep disturbances.
Daytime Sleepiness – Hackensack Sleep Center

Why Does Sleep Deprivation Cause Workplace Accidents?

Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on one’s ability to learn and remember new information. It affects all aspects of cognitive functioning, from memory to reflexes. Your reaction speed slows when you don’t get enough sleep. Your ability to make quick and precise decisions suffers. Risk-takers, on the other hand, are more likely to underestimate their talents. As a result, fatigued workers are more likely to make mistakes and be involved in accidents, which can have serious repercussions for their jobs.

Industries Where Sleepiness Impacts Safety

Sleep deprivation is a major cause of workplace accidents in a wide variety of fields. The likelihood of dangerous errors and near misses increases when people are sleep deprived, such as pilots, truck drivers, shift workers, or medical residents.

Drowsy driving can have major effects for sleep-deprived workers who drive as a part of their job. Drivers who sleep six hours or less per night have a 33% higher risk of being involved in an accident than those who sleep seven or eight hours per night. Driving while fatigued has the same, if not worse, consequences as driving while intoxicated (BAC 0.05%). There is no legal limit for blood alcohol concentration in the United States, however several states have lower restrictions (the federal limit is.08 percent).

Due to their often-overnight or long-shift schedules, healthcare personnel are particularly vulnerable to drowsiness interfering with their duties. Among a study of 100 nurses, cognitive performance was severely decreased in night shift workers, as demonstrated by the fact that night shift nurses made 32 percent more mathematical errors than day shift nurses. A lack of quality sleep and diminished mental acuity were blamed for this.

Stories of Workplace Accidents Caused by Sleepiness

Excessive drowsiness and sleep deprivation have been implicated in a number of high-profile workplace mishaps.

  • Located at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania. It was at Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant, in Pennsylvania, that the worst commercial nuclear plant accident ever occurred: on April 26, 1979. In this case, the nuclear reactor was on the verge of meltdown because of a failure by early morning shift personnel to notice a significant change that had been occurring.
  • Nuclear Power Plant at Chernobyl. Because of human mistake, the Chernobyl nuclear facility disaster began at 1:23 a.m on April 26, 1986. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the operators in question were working with insufficient sleep.
  • Other Nuclear Power Plants.” In the past, several nuclear reactors have suffered from sleepiness-related problems. Nuclear reactors Davis-Besse and Rancho Seco went into shutdown at 1:35 a.m. in 2002 and 4:14 a.m. in 1978, respectively, after power to the control systems went out.
  • The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. The 1989 oil leak in Prince William Sound was caused in large part by excessive working hours and sleep deprivation, which led to the grounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker.
  • Explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle. When the Challenger Space Shuttle was launched in 1986, mistakes were made due to a lack of sleep and shift job exhaustion. Key management had been working since 1 a.m. the day of the explosion, and they had slept less than two hours the night before, according to accounts.
  • Flight 812 of the Air India Express. In 2010, 158 people were killed when an Air India Boeing 737 crashed in southern India. Pilot fell asleep for about three hours before landing at 6:30 a.m. local time, according to the official investigation.

12 Tips to Avoid Daytime Sleepiness | by Liveday | Medium

What Other Issues Does Sleep Deprivation Cause in the Workplace?

There are many more concerns that might occur in the workplace due to sleep deprivation, including accidents that result in harm or death.

  • A well-earned break. An estimated 1.23 million working days are lost each year in the United States as a result of inadequate sleep. Workers who don’t get enough sleep are twice as likely to be absent from work as those who do.
  • A shift in perspective. Insufficient sleep can lead to irritability, frustration, anxiety, and even depression in some people. There is a risk of inadequate teamwork and communication as a result of these changes.
  • Decreased productivity. Employees that are sleep deprived have a harder time at work. In comparison to their classmates, they exhibit lower concentration levels. This can have a significant influence on both individual and team productivity.
  • Expenses incurred. In the long run, the consequences of lost productivity and time away from the office can be substantial. More than $280 billion, or 1.56 percent, of the GDP of the United States was lost to sleep deprivation-related losses in 2015.

There are negative consequences to one’s physical and mental health, both at work and outside of it, when one is sleep deprived or has poor quality sleep. An important first step in promoting better sleep, better health, and higher levels of workplace safety is educating people about the importance of good sleep hygiene.

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