Lack of sleep leads to injuries and illnesses, researchers say
Employers and their workers can protect themselves by understanding the risk factors associated with poor sleep and take steps to mitigate them. With that in mind, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has blogged about the latest information and ongoing studies about sleep and work.
Nearly 30 percent of American workers were not getting enough sleep as of 2000 -- an increase from 24 percent in the 1980s. Experts say six or fewer hours of sleep per day is too short and can lead to health and safety problems.
Researchers say factors such as shift timing, working at night or during irregular hours, and work demands are to blame for insufficient sleep. Among the risks of long work hours and shift work are:
- Decline in mental function and physical ability.
- Higher rates of occupational injury, depression, and poor perceived health.
- Increased risk of illness and injury.
- Increased risk of long-term health effects such as heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, mood disturbances, and cancer.
While it is not possible to eliminate shift work, "the challenge is to develop strategies to make critical services available while keeping workers healthy and everyone around them safe," NIOSH says. For example, near misses and incidents should be analyzed to determine what, if any, role fatigue played as a root cause or contributing factor.
Employers are also advised to provide regular rest -- at least 10 consecutive hours per day of protected time off duty. Shift lengths should be considered such as five eight-hour shifts, four 10-hour shifts, and shorter shifts during evenings and nights.
The researchers also suggest employers provide training to make sure workers are aware of the ups and downs of shift work and the resources available to help them with any difficulties they have with the schedule.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
April 30, 2012
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