“Sleep deprivation can kill” was the conclusion of an in-depth study reported a few years ago by Lesley Stahl on the television program, “60 Minutes.” Researchers told Stahl that getting enough sleep is as vital to survival as getting enough food. The conclusion of the scientists who conducted the study was pretty powerful concerning sleep: “Go without it and you could die.”
Fast-forward six years and scientists still conclude sleep deprivation is a literal killer. If anything, they are now saying they underestimated the dangerous effects of sleep deprivation after conducting what is According to research published in November 2019 by Michigan State University, this study is one of the largest sleep studies to date and builds upon on earlier research on sleep deprivation.
"Our research showed that sleep deprivation doubles the odds of making place keeping errors and triples the number of lapses in attention, which is startling," said Kimberly M. Fenn, one of the study’s authors. "Sleep-deprived individuals need to exercise caution in absolutely everything that they do, and simply can't trust that they won't make costly errors. Oftentimes -- like when behind the wheel of a car -these errors can have tragic consequences."
Research previously published by the Harvard Medical School, which surveyed more than 10,000 people in the U.S., found that that insomnia could be linked to 274,000 workplace accidents and errors each year. If you know that your lack of sleep has an impact on your level of accuracy and productivity at work, you are not alone.
Recently, the federal government has recognized the need for cross-country truck drivers to get enough sleep. Drivers are required to keep a log of the amount of time they drive, when they take breaks, and when they stop in order to sleep. If they come to an inspection station and the log shows they have not had enough sleep, they have to pull over and sleep for a while before they can continue on their trip.
The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) recently placed restrictions on how much time drivers for hire can actually be behind the wheel before they have to sign off and go get some sleep. The Commission substantiated its new rules with findings that “driving while fatigued can be as dangerous as driving after heavy drinking.”
It may be time to study sleep-deprivation in the workplace, particularly in the construction industry. The accident rate nationwide and in New York City is high, with thousands of construction workers injured or killed every year.
The U.S. Occupational and Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports 21.1% percent of all accidental deaths in the workplace are in the construction industry. Falls account for 33.5 percent of all construction accidents. The rest of the accidents are caused by workers being hit by a falling object, being electrocuted, or getting caught in-between objects. OSHA refers to these as “the fatal four.”
In New York City, the need for construction workers is booming. In May 2019, the New York State Comptroller’s Office reported the city’s five boroughs, along with Long Island, northern New Jersey, and the Lower Hudson Valley accounted for 5.1% construction jobs in the nation in 2018. Sadly, every day many of these construction workers are injured or killed on the job. They are asked to climb ladders, work in cold weather, and on scaffolding. They walk out on beams and crawl across roofs. They work with power tools, from simple hammers to the complex, dangerous equipment. They have to make quick decisions. There is evidence that sleep deprivation contributes to a greater risk of workplace injuries and construction site accidents.
According to OSHA, a normal work shift is generally considered to be a work period of no more than eight consecutive hours during the day, five days a week with at least an eight-hour rest, with any shift that incorporates more continuous hours, requires more consecutive days of work or requires work during the evening being considered extended or unusual.
While extended or unusual work shifts are often more stressful physically, mentally, and emotionally, there is no current specific OSHA Standard to address the circumstances extended shifts can lead to such fatigue or sleep deprivation.
An article published specifically for construction workers discusses the dangers of sleep deprivation in the workforce in general and discusses ways in which sleep-deprivation can affect construction workers. The dangerous behaviors of sleep-deprived individuals include:
Getting an adequate amount of sleep is not only important for your overall health but also necessary to maintain the skills you need at work such as concentration, memory, coordination, and operating complex machinery. Being aware of your sleep habits and establishing positive rest habits will help make you a safer employee. Employers and their employees should learn to recognize the signs of sleep deprivation to increase the safety factor on construction worksites.
If any worker experiences these types of symptoms, a supervisor or the employer should be notified immediately.
Construction workers that have been injured in a construction accident may be eligible for financial compensation and workers' compensation regardless of fault. If you’ve been injured, contact a construction accident lawyer at our firm to learn more about your legal options.