Case Study: Sleepiness is a Safety Hazard for Construction and Night Shift Workers

“Employers should prioritize efforts to help workers get a good night’s sleep”, researchers from Colorado State University say after their study of construction workers, a connection was found between poor quality sleep and the risk of workplace incidents and injuries.    

Construction workers from two public works departments in Portland, OR, completed three surveys over a 12-month period. The data collected, which was part of an Oregon Healthy Workforce Center study, was used to determine the respondents’ self-reported sleep quality and quantity, and was then compared with subsequent reports on safety behavior and workplace injuries.

Respondents who reported more insomnia symptoms, on average, experienced more “cognitive failures”–such as lapses in attention, memory, or action–at work. More failures were related to an increase in minor injuries and a reduction in required and voluntary safety behaviors.

Among the cognitive failures:

• Not remembering correct work procedures or if equipment was turned off.

• Unintentionally pressing a control switch on machines.

• Stopping or starting the wrong machine unintentionally.

• Daydreaming instead of listening to a co-worker.

“Organizations, especially safety-sensitive ones like construction, should care about their employees’ sleep because it can impact the safety of the workplace and put workers at risk,” Rebecca Brossoit, study co-author and a CSU graduate student, said in a June 5 press release. “There’s a business case for caring about sleep.”

It does not leave night shift workers out; studies have found that most night-shift workers get less sleep per week than those who work day shifts. Do you have trouble sleeping? Follow these principles to reduce intensify feelings of fatigue.

• Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

• Turn out the light immediately when going to bed.

• Don’t read or watch television in bed.

• Make your room dark and quiet.

• Avoid caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, especially before bedtime.

• Exercise regularly.