Sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and insomnia are just a few sleep disorders that affect all employees, not only truck drivers. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), fatigue is a factor in 13 percent of workplace injuries, and “43 percent of Americans admit they may be too tired to function safely at work.”
For motor carriers, a great deal of emphasis is placed on driver fatigue – and rightly so – but fatigue-related crashes and injuries are just part of the risk. Fatigue affects cognitive performance (i.e., short-term memory loss, concentration, etc.), work performance (i.e. decreased productivity, errors, etc.), personal health (i.e., depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease, etc.), and carries financial consequences such as increased health care costs.
Employers need to be proactive and address fatigue as a loss exposure similar to rear-end crashes and slips, trips, and falls. Start by adopting a culture that promotes sleep health and consider the options below to help employees minimize the effects of fatigue in the workplace.
PROVIDE SLEEP EDUCATION
Train employees on the signs of sleep disorders and risks associated with fatigue. The North American Fatigue Management Program has many resources available to train employees and calculate the return on investment.
START A WELLNESS PROGRAM
A comprehensive wellness program can be designed to address fatigue. Such a program can include sleep tests for employees exhibiting risk factors, stress management options such as flex-time for exercising, and on-site health screenings.
CREATE A HEALTHY WORK ENVIRONMENT
An employee’s work area plays an important role in minimizing fatigue. Employers can provide well-lit work areas to promote alertness and optimize work schedules so employees are not bouncing between shifts and disrupting their circadian rhythms. Scheduling breaks so employees can step away from their work long enough to recharge can help staff refocus and be more productive.
ENCOURAGE POWER NAPS
Sleeping on the job is certainly frowned upon, but progressive companies are embracing the positive effects a power nap (10-30 minutes) can have on productivity. According to SafeStart, “napping studies have proven that short power naps increase performance by 34 percent and alertness by 54 percent." Naps can be used strategically to supplement sleep, not replace it.
CALL TO ACTION
- Educate employees on the risks associated with fatigue and sleep disorders.
- Provide employees with health screenings and sleep studies.
- Implement an employee wellness program.
- Evaluate work areas and take action to eliminate conditions that cause fatigue, like poor lighting.
Note: These lists are not intended to be all-inclusive
This material is intended to be a broad overview of the subject matter and is provided for informational purposes only. Great West Casualty Company does not provide legal advice to its insureds or other parties, nor does it advise insureds or other parties on employment-related issues, therefore the subject matter is not intended to serve as legal or employment advice for any issue(s) that may arise in the operations of its insureds or other parties. Legal advice should always be sought from legal counsel. Great West Casualty Company shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss, action, or inaction alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the information contained herein.Reprinted with permission from Great West Casualty Company.