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Lack of Sleep Linked to Higher Risk of Injury in Construction

Lack of sleep appears to be leaving construction workers at greater risk of injury. 

Researchers at Colorado State University have found that respondents suffering from insomnia experienced more “cognitive failures” at work compared to coworkers who were sleeping better. 

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. “There’s a business case for caring about sleep.” 

Indeed, sleep loss is costing businesses lots of money. 

A study by the RAND Corp. estimated that insufficient sleep costs the U.S. economy $411 billion a year. Beyond the costs of diminished performance and productivity, experts pointed to fatigued workers’ greater use of health care resources, as well as higher workers’ compensation and other insurance rates. 

Those who don’t sleep adequately are more prone to obesity, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. 

Employers are beginning to try to tackle the problem in various ways, including establishing fatigue risk management systems, which can mesh well within existing safety programs. 

An FRMS can include employee education and screening for sleep apnea. Limiting shift work and long hours also can help. Other scheduling goals include: 

  • Minimizing overtime, especially forced overtime. 
  • Keeping consecutive night shifts to a minimum. (One insurance company study found that workers’ injury risk grew with each consecutive night shift, from 6% higher on the second night to 17% and 36% greater on the third and fourth nights, respectively.) 
  • Scheduling demanding tasks when workers are most alert, such as during the first half of a long shift or night shift. 

We know that workers are more effective when they get the sleep they need. Companies that do what they can to help their workers in this regard can expect to reap the rewards of a well-rested workforce. 

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