Fatigue Could Be Dangerous Today, NSC Warns
According to NSC's new report, "Tired at Work: How fatigue affects our bodies," certain workers always have an increased risk for circadian misalignment, which occurs when we force ourselves to stay awake at hours when our bodies believe we should ordinarily be asleep.
Most parts of the country have just set their clocks ahead one hour for the start of Daylight Saving Time this year, resulting in a lost hour of sleep. The National Safety Council is cautioning employers that workers who already have a higher risk of being drowsy may be even more tired than usual due to the time change.
According to NSC's new report, Tired at Work: How fatigue affects our bodies, certain workers always have an increased risk for circadian misalignment, which occurs when we force ourselves to stay awake at hours when our bodies believe we should ordinarily be asleep. The workers in this group – shift workers, medical staff, emergency responders, military personnel, any worker over the age of 40, and transportation professionals – are especially at risk for circadian misalignment if they work rotating or night shifts, and losing an hour of sleep due to daylight saving may be the most difficult for them.
Research also shows that fatal car crashes, which already increase in likelihood if we are tired, increase on the Monday after the time change. An NSC probability-based survey released last year found 43 percent of Americans say they do not get enough sleep to mitigate the impact on critical work and road safety risks, including the ability to think clearly, make informed decisions, and be productive.
"Mondays are always tough, but this one could be deadly," said Emily Whitcomb, senior program manager of the fatigue initiative at the National Safety Council. "We encourage employers to educate employees about the importance of sleep, and this is the perfect time of the year to implement a sleep health program. When it comes down to it, we are not at our best when we are tired."
The NSC recommends employers look for signs of fatigue among their entire workforce today, the day after the time change, but especially workers who:
- Are shift workers
- Work long shifts
- Put in long weeks
- Do not get regular rest breaks
- Get less than 12 hours off between shifts
- Have sleep deficiencies
- Work high-risk hours, such as overnight or in the early morning
- Have physically or mentally demanding jobs
- Experience long commutes
Lack of sleep costs $410 billion in societal expenses annually, according to NSC, which offers a Fatigue Cost Calculator to help employees determine the cost of fatigue on their workforce and how to solve the problem, as well as a Fatigue Kit for employers to educate their employees about fatigue and how to get better, healthier sleep.