America is a tired country. About 20% of us average less than six hours of sleep a night, and the percentage of those who sleep eight hours or more keeps declining. The problem is worse for the ever-increasing number of employees who work nontraditional schedules. According to one nationwide study, 44% of shift workers are sleep deprived (compared with 29% of day workers).
Sleep deprivation in the workplace leads to poor concentration, absenteeism, accidents, errors, injuries – and fatalities.
In 2012 an American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine task force developed these guidelines to help businesses manage the risks of workplace fatigue:
- Staffing. Set shifts that minimize the need for employees to work additional hours.
- Shiftwork. Reduce fatigue for night shift workers by setting schedules so that they can recover from sleep deprivation by sleeping at night and/or napping during the day.
- Employee training and sleep disorder management. Teach workers about the impact, and health risks of sleep disorders. Screen them for symptoms through a questionnaire or physical. Employees should learn how to how to wake up at the same time every day, and avoid alcohol or caffeine before bedtime. Treatments for sleep disorders t include behavior modification, continuous positive airway pressure (C-PAP) equipment, and medication.
- Workplace conditions. To increase employee alertness change such factors in the environment as light, temperature, humidity, noise, and ergonomic design. Provide breaks for food, exercise, conversation and – if possible – naps.
- Individual risk assessment. Give managers authority to encourage rest breaks, shift dangerous activities to others, or use a buddy approach to improve alertness. Make sure that workers can identify such signs of excessive fatigue as yawning, a drooping head or eyelids, or lapses in attention.
To learn more about how you can help your workers fight fatigue in the workplace, just let us know at any time. We’re here to serve you.