Sleep deprivation is an overlooked cause of workplace accidents. According to the National Sleep Foundation it increases the likelihood of a workplace accident by 70%. Lack of sleep results in poor judgment and impaired performance. At a desk job these may not be life-threatening, but in other situations lack of sleep has resulted in major disasters - Chernobyl, Three Mile island and the Exxon Valdez are examples.
OSHA lists ten dangers for tired workers:
- Improper safety enforcement leading to injury or fatality.
- Impaired motor skills - 17 or 19 hours without sleep is equal to a .05% blood alcohol level, cutting response speed in half.
- Poor decision making and risk taking. This can be a special problem in healthcare.
- Poor memory and information processing.
- Falling asleep on the job.
- Shift workers, especially midnight to 8 AM, have higher susceptibility to accidents.
- Inability to deal with stress.
- Reduced productivity - estimated annual loss of $136.4 billion.
- Long term impacts - obesity, heart disease, digestion, depression, reproductive problems, lower immunity, etc.
Signs of sleep deprivation include loss of appetite; headaches or bodily pain; giddiness; mood swings; paranoia; forgetfulness; weight gain; loss of balance.
Workers and employers should watch for signs of sleep deprivation. Employers may need to adjust work schedules. Workers should be trained in good sleep habits.