FATIGUE MANAGEMENT: A Health and Safety Issue

It’s time to pay attention to sleep. This is what is trending in the EAP world as an urgent issue to be addressed. So says Chestnut Global Partners (CGP) Trends Report 2015 (www.chestnutglobalpartners.org).  CGP, an international EAP Provider, in its analysis of what is occurring in the field of Employee Assistance has focused on how lack of sleep — both quality and quantity — is affecting all levels of today’s workforce.

“The trend suggests that the increased yearning for better quality sleep, particularly among people dealing with increased workloads, increased stress levels, and shift work, all of which undermine quality, restful sleep. While the importance of a good night’s sleep on one’s ability to function day-to-day has been known for years, recent research is now shedding light on the link between inadequate sleep and an increased risk for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and depression.”

The Chestnut Global report highlights the fact that if sleep disorders are untreated organizations stand to pay a heavy price. From a safety standpoint they quote two pieces of research to emphasise their argument:

  • those with moderate to severe sleep apnea are twice as likely to have a traffic accident, and
  • an individual who is awake for longer than 17 hours is impaired at a similar level as an individual with a blood alcohol content of 0.05. (AM Williamson and Anne-Marie Feyer, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, October 2000)

Fatigue as a concern in safety-sensitive industries such as manufacturing, mining, petrochemical, health care, transportation, and any industry requiring shift work has been around for decades. While many of these industries have addressed fatigue primarily from an organizational level by focusing on roster adjustments and napping policies, etc, the root cause of worker fatigue: the quantity and/or quality of sleep, must now be placed on top of the agenda.

Obtaining the proper quality and quantity of sleep becomes a personal choice. If you are obtaining enough quality sleep – even if working a demanding job – you will have sufficient energy and focus to be safe and productive. This is the principle of how the mind and body works. Yet, many people are not aware or take the time to seek possible help when experiencing energy depletion or sleepiness on the job. There is a need for organizational health and safety programs to offer services that target the underlying causes of fatigue, which range from undiagnosed medical conditions to unhealthy behavioural and lifestyle habits.

Keeping your eyes wide open depends on how long and how well you kept them closely shut the night before.


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