In the agricultural world, the fall months are some of the busiest times. There are many industries that are frantically working double shifts, seven-day work weeks, or just working well over 40 hours. For many of us there is no way around this situation; all we can do is keep on keeping on and get the task done. What some people do not realize is that by working these irregular shifts/hours we are affecting our body’s natural cycle. Sleep deprivation is a major contributor in hundreds of thousands of accidents annually. Showing up to work impaired does not have to mean being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Simply being awake for more than 18 hours has the same impairment as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08. There is no way to accurately test for this kind of impairment, and that is why it is extremely important that we educate ourselves on the warning signs and dangers of fatigue and sleep deprivation.
5 Signs of Fatigue & Sleep Deprivation in Workers
Fatigue is a state of reduced mental or physical capacity from a lack of sleep or excess workload. This can negatively impact a worker’s ability to perform their duties, stay alert to hazards or manage potentially risky situations that arise.
Workers in industries that require long shifts, night shifts or that are physically demanding, are especially at risk compared to the average worker. If you have employees that work in those conditions, you should have a system in place to identify employees that may be impacted by fatigue or sleep deprivation to maintain safety and productivity.
Here are 5 common symptoms of fatigued workers.
1. Excessive Consumption of Caffeine or Energy Drinks: Too much coffee or energy drink consumption can also be dangerous for the worker’s health; excess caffeine is known to cause headaches, cardiac issues, high blood pressure and increased anxiety. Too much caffeine can also cause insomnia which can amplify fatigue due to lack of sleep.
2. Slow Reactions or Responses: This can include being unresponsive when someone is calling their name, being slow to answer during conversations, or looking like they’re dazed while they’re working. A lack of alertness is a serious danger in hazardous work environments because of the dangers that are already inherent in the workspace to both the worker and their colleagues.
3. Poor Memory: Sleep deprivation impacts short-term memory and the process of converting short-term memory into long-term memory. A worker suffering from a chronic lack of sleep may forget things you’ve just told them, or even things you told them the day before. Poor memory can negatively impact everything from workplace safety to the effectiveness of employee training.
4. Performance Deteriorations: Fatigue and sleep deprivation can increase the amount of time a worker takes to complete a task, often seeming like they are working in slow motion compared to their normal speed. When workers are tired, they are also likely to make errors, which means repeating the work or parts of the work.
5. Lack of Attention to Detail: A lack of care to details and procedures or being distracted are often symptoms of fatigue. This can manifest as mistakes or overlooking steps while setting up or disassembling machinery or equipment setup, or missing steps on checklists or standard procedures.
“5 Signs of Fatigue & Sleep Deprivation in Workers.” Protocol Rescue, http://protocolrescue.com/fatigue-sleep-deprivation/.