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A lack of sleep can lead to increased risk for workplace injuries and illnesses, according to studies.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports “nearly 30 percent of American workers were not getting enough sleep as of 2000 — an increase from 24 percent in the 1980s,” according to an article at Risk & Insurance Online.
Six hours appears to be the magic number. Less that that, and workers are at increased risk for health and safety problems.
Researchers say factors such as shift timing, working at night or during irregular hours, and work demands are to blame for insufficient sleep.
Among the risks of long work hours and shift work are:
- Decline in mental function and physical ability.
- Higher rates of occupational injury, depression, and poor perceived health.
- Increased risk of illness and injury.
- Increased risk of long-term health effects such as heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, mood disturbances, and cancer.
While it is not possible to eliminate shift work, “the challenge is to develop strategies to make critical services available while keeping workers healthy and everyone around them safe,” NIOSH says.
For example, near misses and incidents should be analyzed to determine what, if any, role fatigue played as a root cause or contributing factor. Employers are also advised to provide regular rest — at least 10 consecutive hours per day of protected time off duty.