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Sleep: It Does a Worker’s Body Good

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Clocks will spring forward on Sunday, March 11 as we begin Daylight Saving Time. Even though we welcome the bright mornings as a signal that winter is finally coming to an end, we do miss that lost hour of sleep and we might even have to deal with our body clock disruption.

Now you may think one hour of lost sleep isn’t much, but many of us deal with lack of sleep on a regular basis. The effects of fatigue are far-reaching and can have an adverse impact on all areas of our lives, including workplace safety.

March is Sleep Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to remind people that getting a good night’s sleep is a necessity. More than 43% of workers are sleep-deprived, and sleep deprivation and drowsiness on the job can be a major safety issue, especially in safety-critical positions that involve operating machinery, driving or other tasks that require alertness.

Adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep each night, but 63 percent of Americans reported their sleep needs are not being met each week. According to Circadian (link to website - http://www.circadian.com/), a global leader in providing 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions for businesses that operate around the clock, sleep deprivation is frequently the root cause of decreased productivity, accidents, incidents and mistakes which cost companies billions of dollars each year.

Sleep deprived individuals are poor communicators, have decreased vigilance and slower response time, become distracted easily, and are more prone to engage in risky decision making. Interesting point is if you have four or more nights of less than seven hours of sleep per night, it can be the equivalent to a total night of sleep deprivation and that can affect your functioning for up to two weeks.

And what about operating machinery or driving while sleepy? Drowsy driving is impaired driving, and the National Safety Council research showed:
• You are three times more likely to be in a car crash if fatigued
• Losing even two hours of sleep is similar to the effect of having three beers
• Being awake for more than 20 hours is the equivalent of being legally drunk (22 hours of sleep deprivation results in neurobehavioral performance impairment that are comparable to a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level)

The loss of sleep is not only detrimental to workplace safety, it is a major player in employees’ overall health. Chronic sleep-deprivation causes depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. It is estimated fatigue costs U.S. employers more than $136 billion a year in health-related lost productivity.

So, time to get some shut eye in the name of workplace safety and health!

Mr. Griffith has a received his bachelors degree in Environmental Health from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and president of Workplace Safety & Health Company. He has over 35 years of industrial hygiene, safety, loss control and consulting experience. Chemical monitoring, noise measurement, program development and management, risk assessment and computer management of health and safety data are areas of particular strength. Mr. Griffith is a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) at the local and national level. He is also active in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

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