Work-related injuries and accidents are unfortunately all too common in today’s workforce. Even seemingly minor injuries can sometimes have long-term effects that leave employees unable to return to work for long periods. While employers are expected to take measures to ensure their workers are protected from exposure to dangerous chemicals, machinery, heights, and falling objects – other workplace safety concerns can remain in limbo. Sleep deprivation, for instance, can quickly turn a safe work environment into a major hazard if left unaddressed. One question that needs to be asked in particular in industries with long work hours is whether sleep deprivation is a work-related injury.
Insufficient sleep or sleep deprivation is one of the major causes of excessive daytime sleepiness, which can seriously impact our nation’s workers and likely increase incidents of negligence on the job.
Sleep Deprivation and Work-Related Injuries
Sleep deprivation and daytime fatigue can be incredibly dangerous and have serious consequences. These conditions greatly increase the likelihood of injuries occurring in the workplace. Overly sleepy workers are 70% more likely to be involved in workplace accidents than other workers. And since according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 35% of Americans get less than the necessary seven to eight hours of sleep per day, which yields a large number of workers with an increased potential to cause workplace injuries and wrongful deaths daily.
A lack of sleep or a lack of quality sleep can impact both an individual’s physical and mental health. If your job requires you to work longer than average hours – like truck driving – or requires you to work a full nighttime shift, you are missing out on important hours of bodily restoration you need to be healthy and function optimally. Those who sleep poorly or have their sleep cycles disrupted are at a much higher risk for developing high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, anxiety, and depression.
With all that in mind, it’s no wonder excessive sleepiness or sleep deprivation can greatly increase the probability of an accident at work. These aren’t just small accidents either, as sleep deprivation can result in devastating injuries and even sometimes death.
Dangers for Sleep-Deprived Workers
Each workplace has its level of dangers that workers must effectively navigate. However, certain jobs have a much higher level of risk than others. Working in industries like construction, oil and gas, trucking, and many others comes with an increased likelihood of devastating injury. These industries can also have much longer work hours and require more physical labor that can quickly result in injury if workers are unable to get the proper amount of sleep.
Some of the most common dangers sleep-deprived workers may encounter include:
- Improper safety enforcement: While we expect our employers to create a safe work environment, this isn’t always the case. Some require employees to work much longer shifts, which can greatly diminish their ability to remain focused and alert, particularly in trucking and construction jobs. Not only that, but sleep deprivation combined with a work environment that is not enforcing proper safety protocols like wearing the proper equipment or blocking off unsafe areas can quickly lead to severe injuries.
- Impaired motor skills: Workers who are sleep deprived have poor hand-eye coordination, depth perception, and balance. This can be especially dangerous in manufacturing and construction jobs where workers risk falling from large heights off ladders or scaffolding and are often working with heavy machinery that can cause catastrophic consequences if mismanaged or striking those in its path.
- Poor decision-making: A lack of sleep can greatly alter a person’s judgment and lead them to make riskier decisions that are not thought out. This is especially dangerous as workers may not realize they are compromised, leading them to make poor decisions due to increased errors on the job, which can lead to injuries for others on the worksite.
- Poor memory and information processing: Sleep deprivation can make it very difficult to focus and retain new information on the job. Distractions, impaired short-term memory, and lack of problem-solving skills can lead to costly mistakes and safety hazards.
- Falling asleep at work: Workers who fall asleep on the job will not be able to react to potential hazards promptly. Depending on the position they hold, they can also be at risk of injuring other employees by falling asleep. For example, if a team of construction workers is excavating on a job site and the worker operating the excavator falls asleep, other workers around it can be at risk of grave injury.
- Risks to shift workers: Shift workers are often responsible for taking overnight shifts from midnight to 8:00 AM. These hours often pose more danger because shift workers may find it difficult to stay well-rested. They can also have a hard time sticking to a routine sleep schedule.
Workplace Accident Lawyers
Sleep deprivation can significantly increase the risk of serious workplace accidents. While some industries may have more threats of sleep deprivation, no employee should feel unsafe in their work environment. At Adame Garza LLP, our experienced bilingual workplace accident lawyers can explain your legal options if you are injured or if someone you know is injured on the job due to their sleep deprivation or the fatigue of others at their place of work.