Lack Of Sleep Can Put Workers At Risk

Research increasingly shows that lack of sleep not only affects work performance, but more importantly, it significantly affects safety. In high-risk fields such as construction, the effects of not getting enough sleep can have detrimental and lasting effects on health and safety of workers. To illustrate, here are some recent findings demonstrating how sleep deprivation impairs brain activity which can negatively impact worker safety and well-being: 
  1. Decline in Performance: The average functional level of a sleep-deprived person is significantly lower than that of individuals who get 7 or more hours of sleep. Performance deterioration translates to slower response time and a lack of vigilance to surroundings which can result in an increase in accidents.
  2. Increase in Errors: Workers who lack proper sleep show a significant increase in the number of mistakes made due to faulty action taken or omission of an action that needed to be taken. In either case, inadvertently performing or not performing an action in error can lead to dangerous outcomes in a work environment, particularly when tasks that time-sensitive and require sustained and accurate attention.
  3. Decrease in Communication: When workers are sleep-deprived, communication suffers as tired person is likely to mumble, enunciating instructions or warnings poorly. They may speak too softly, too slowly or lose track of what they’re saying. Most significantly, they may opt to not communicate something important because they simply lack the energy. And because communication is key in the high-risk environment of a construction site, impaired ability to communicate endangers the lives and safety of workers.
  4. Impairment in Cognition: Short term memory and working memory are both affected by lack of sleep. This means that a sleep-deprived person has an impaired ability to adequately assess new, incoming information and incorporate that information to make appropriate adjustments that can keep them an co-workers safe in an ever changing and hazardous environment such as a construction site.
  5. Increase in Risky Behaviors: Studies show that in sleep deprived people, regions of the brain controlling logical thinking and rationalization are suppressed and that there is an increase in the areas of the brain linked to risky decision making. In an environment where impaired decision-making can lead to safety issues, an increase in accidents and injuries is likely to occur.