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Stop a Workplace Accident: Get a Good Night's Sleep

Train accidents like the recent Metro North disaster in the Bronx are most frequently caused by operator error. Sleepiness is often a co-culprit. Research increasingly shows that fatigue - even if one doesn't feel tired - can be a precipitating factor a workplace accident.

Americans in general are sleep deprived. The National Sleep Foundation reports some shocking statistics when people in different occupations are asked how much sleep

  • Half of all pilots report that they rarely get a good night's sleep
  • 44 percent of truck drivers report being sleep deprived
  • 29 percent of bus, taxi and limo drivers report that they seldom get a good night's sleep during the workweek

A 1.3 hour reduction of sleep for one night could result in a loss of daytime alertness by as much as 32 percent. Even when people do not fall asleep on the job, their concentration and responsiveness can be seriously affected. Workers who are even a little sleep deprived are more likely to experience so-called "micro-sleeps," or episodes in which they fall asleep for only a few seconds.

Americans do not value sleep and are often unaware of the extreme consequences that even a slight reduction in sleep can cause. To improve the situation, both workers and their employers need to be educated about sleep needs and the important role of sleep in promoting workplace safety and preventing workplace accidents.

Employers need to be aware of sleep needs when scheduling shift work. Employees need information about sleep hygiene and the importance of sleep in maintaining alertness and concentration. Company-wide efforts to educate workers about the need for adequate sleep can go a long way toward improving workplace safety.

Source: Daily News, "How sleep deprivation endangers lives," Dec. 4, 2013.