Why Sleep is Important in Maintaining Safety in the Workplace

Why Sleep is Important in Maintaining Safety in the Workplace

There is no doubt that sleep is important to someone’s overall health but it is also important in maintaining the safety of others around you. Experts recommend that adults should get seven or more hours of sleep per night to maintain optimal health. However, it is suggested that about one-third of adults don’t get the proper amount of sleep they need. This can prevent employees from meeting their health and productivity goals and can often create safety issues in the workplace. Poor sleep increases someone’s risk of developing multiple chronic conditions. According to the CDC Workplace Health Resource Center, adults who sleep six or fewer hours a night are more likely to be obese and have conditions such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke.

In addition to this, poor sleep slows physical and cognitive reaction times and accuracy which increases the risk of injury while on the job. An employee’s productivity also decreases with fatigue which could cost employers an estimated $1,967 per employee per year. Poor sleep also creates a decrease in communication. A study showed that sleep deprived people drop the intensity of their voices, pause for long periods of times without reason, enunciate poorly or mumble instructions. There is an increased risk of becoming distracted. Many sleep-deprived individuals have trouble maintaining focus on important things, keeping track of events. Some research even suggests that there is a symbiotic relationship between sleep deprivation and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because many of the symptoms overlap between the two.

In a recent blog we talked about drowsy driving and again this is a safety hazard in the work place as well as on the road. The trucking industry is aware of the driving impairments that come with sleep deprivation because of federal regulations. However, plant managers or warehouse managers can be unaware of the ways sleep deprived workers could be operating machinery such as forklifts and dump trucks dangerously. Errors may also increase if an employee is overworked or sleep deprived. These errors could lead to harm of an employee or not performing a specific task that is asked of the employee. A sleep deprived employee may also have poor mood appropriate behavior. Many sleep deprived individuals are withdrawn and quiet. However, it only takes one inappropriate mood behavior outburst to ruin a positive work environment which will cause a nightmare for HR.

So who is at risk of being sleep deprived? Due to an employees’ work and home life getting enough sleep can be hard for anyone no matter what job they have. However, people who work in industries that require shift work or long hours can have a higher risk of sleep deprivation and sleep related disorders. If companies address sleep as part of a workplace health program safety can increase while also helping employees be healthier.

There are four strategies companies can implement to combat sleep deprivation in the work place.

Strategy 1: Education, Training, and Assessment.
1. Education: Information about sleep can be out in newsletters or in common areas for employees to view. An employer can provide recommendations from health agencies on how much sleep is needed to be healthy etc.
2. Training: Hold training sessions for managers and employees to recognize the signs and symptoms of fatigue and how to reduce fatigue related incidents.
3. Assessment: Companies can provide workers access to tools that evaluate their sleep.

Strategy 2: Incorporate Dedicated Breaks and Napping Rooms.
1. Dedicate physical spaces with beds or comfortable chairs where employees can rest.
2. Schedules that allow for breaks.

Strategy 3: Recognize Tiredness and Pull Over Safely.
1. Alertness is critical for driving safely. Teach employees how to recognize the signs of fatigue, encourage them to pull over safely and allow them to take naps. Managers can work with drivers to plan their routes and make sure to schedule times for sleep in places that are safe.

Strategy 4: Modify the Workplace to Increase Alertness.
1. Lighting. Adjust the brightness and wavelength to maximize alertness according to the time of the shift. (i.e. Increase lighting during night shifts to increase alertness and reduce fatigue).
2. Temperature. Maintaining a constant temperature in the work place can promote wakefulness. If the temperature increases the more workers begin to feel drowsier.
3. Noise. Continuous sound acts as a stimulant for employees and is effective when music is varied.

Most importantly make sleep a priority for your employees by implementing these strategies and having workplace health programs to inform and educate not only your employees but also you and your other managers.


Smith, Sandy. “The Ten Dangers of Sleep Deprivation for Workers.” EHS Today, 29 Mar. 2017, www.ehstoday.com/safety/ten-dangers-sleep-deprivation-workers.

Sleep: An Important Health and Safety Concern at Work.” Www.cdc.gov, www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/initiatives/resource-center/pdf/WHRC-Brief-Sleep-508.pdf.