Work fatigue a serious risk
TIRED workers are as impaired as drunk drivers and are a danger to themselves and others, according to a new government inquiry.
The federal investigation into sleep health in the workplace found shifts affecting regular sleep are dangerous and costly to the economy, making employees less productive and at greater risk of accidents, injuries and mistakes.
It also found professionals with “safety-critical” jobs, carrying out duties with accuracy and safety, have presented as being less rested, more often. This is because they are more likely to do unusual shifts or be “on call”.
The Bedtime Reading inquiry says shift work is linked to conditions associated with poor sleep, including obesity, sleep disorders, mental health conditions and cancer.
It compared being tired with having a blood-alcohol reading of 0.05, and said 23 per cent of all car accidents on Victorian roads were caused by people who hadn’t had enough sleep.
Certain types of work, which require high levels of accuracy and concentration, also use shift work as well as night shifts, long shifts and fly-in-fly-out work that leave workers more prone to accidents due to tiredness.
Jobs in the health sector that require workers to be “on call” for long periods are also likely to leave them affected by fatigue.
All these types of rostering were found to “impact negatively on sleep duration and quality”.
These type of workers can include “occupational drivers, emergency services, health care workers, and machinery operators,” according to the study.
Truckies were also flagged in the inquiry, with some drivers in Western Australia found to be working 17 hours straight, taking few breaks.
“Being awake for 17 hours is the equivalent of being intoxicated at 0.05 per cent,” sleep researcher Dr Ian Dunican said.
Workers who are tired have a
50 per cent risk of occupational injury, absenteeism and error or safety violation.
Of these at-risk individuals, up to 45 per cent work in safety- sensitive jobs such as law enforcement or public or commercial transport.
The study associates a lack of sleep with impaired performance in the workplace and says not getting enough sleep leads to workers being less efficient on the job. It also leads to people calling in sick.
The federal inquiry has called on the government to take action on the major recommendation that sleep be considered a “third pillar” of healthy living along with diet and exercise.
SLEEP-IMPAIRED: Workers who are tired have a 50 per cent risk of occupational injury, absenteeism and error or safety violation.