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Sleep disturbances increase the risk of workplace injury

With spring coming just around the corner, most people are enthusiastically looking forward to the extra sunshine delivered by daylight savings time. Nonetheless, most people in Colorado and other areas tend to adjust poorly to the change, which is marked by the loss of an hour's sleep. It's estimated that there is a significant increase in the incidence of workplace injury for at least a week after the change.

Workers who already work changing shifts and third shift feel the change even more critically. Those who fight chronic tiredness due to shift work or rotating shifts, face a major safety problem and have higher risk of being hurt at work. When operating machinery, driving truck or bus and other jobs requiring total focus, higher workplace injury and lower production are likely.

A National Sleep Foundation (NSF) study of transportation workers revealed that about one-fourth of train operators and pilots admitted to sleep disturbances on the job. Just recently, for example, a commuter train was driven off the track in an eastern state and caused a deadly accident. The operator reportedly admitted to having drowsiness problems before the crash.

The NSF publishes some tips for shift workers in particular. One is to take a lot of breaks, and walk around to keep alert. Another is to assign workers a variety of tasks to keep them mentally alert. Any sign of drowsiness should result in not operating machinery, driving vehicles, or handling hazardous materials. In fact, whenever alertness is particularly desirable, the worker with a sleep deprivation problem must avoid that task.

Caffeine can be a good way to increase alertness but it's no substitute for sleep and health living habits. Workers in Colorado or anywhere else should always seek a heightened awareness against the occurrence of a workplace injury. If it's an unmanageable problem, workers should not hesitate to seek appropriate medical treatment to determine the nature of the disturbances. Furthermore, some workers may have to switch to exclusively day work in order to keep their sleep rhythms in sync.

Source: safety.blr.com, Shiftwork safety tips for National Sleep Awareness Week, Emily Clark, March 7, 2014

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