The sleep deprived are depriving your company

March 20, 2013

According to the entertainment industry, zombies function without sleep. Not so with humans in the real world, although a disturbing percentage of today’s workers are operating as zombies – sleep deprived.

Awake but not alert

About 41 million U.S. workers (30 percent of the American workforce) get less than six hours of sleep each night, according to a study released earlier this year by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours a night.

Sleep deprived workers are more likely to:

– Get injured on the job or injure others.

– Make mistakes that waste time and money.

– Decrease their productivity.

– Increase their absenteeism and presenteeism

– Put themselves at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and depression.

A national survey in 2010 found 69.7 percent of night shift workers in the transportation and warehousing sector and 52.3 percent of night shift workers in the health care and social assistance sector sleep less than six hours a day. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that at least 100,000 crashes a year are due to driver fatigue, causing 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in damage.

The sleep deprived workforce is not limited to night shift workers or long haul drivers. The economy has forced many workers to take on second jobs to stay afloat or work more hours as employers continue to run lean. Technology has many workers feel that they are ‘on call’ 24/7. Many experts point to a culture that is too busy to sleep. Whatever the reasons, lack of sleep is stealing health and productivity from the employee and employer.

Fatigue management risk systems Companies reaching out to help at-risk employees recognize sleep-deprivation and are implementing systems that cover the following:

1. Staffing – Ensure the company has the right amount of staff for the workload.

2. Scheduling – Calculate commuting time, after-hours meetings and overtime to ensure workers have enough time to sleep between shifts. Avoid starting shifts before 7 a.m. Consider rotating shifts forward, not backward.

3. Environment – Workplace lighting, sound, temperature, and humidity should be designed to keep employees awake.

4. Alertness – Educate employees and managers to recognize the warning signs of fatigue. Alertness monitors and fitness-for-duty tests may be necessary. In high risk driving, construction, manufacturing, or other physically demanding jobs, safety and management personnel should specifically focus on fatigue.

5. Education – Teach workers to better manage factors at home that affect sleep. Sleep-disorder screening is an option the companies may provide.

EctoHR, Inc. can help

While not experts in sleep disorders and fatigue, EctoHR, Inc. is ready to assist your company with systems, training, and other resources to help you protect your most valuable asset – your employees! Contact a team member at EctoHR by calling 810.534.0170, or by email to hr@ectohr.com.

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