How the Lack of Sleep Plays a Role in Workplace Injuries

December 13, 2016

You may have trouble sleeping some days, or you may have insomnia which keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep for days or even week on end. You might think that being sleepy is harmless and that you can just “catch up” on sleep over the weekend, but then you are unable to. You may not be aware that sleepiness and insomnia is linked to a higher incidence of workplace injuries.

A study that was published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology  investigated the ways in which insomnia might relate to workplace injuries, which have such a high human and economic cost. The researchers looked at workers and supervisors in a mid-sized construction company. The result of the study was a confirmation that insomnia did decrease workers’ safety behaviors which resulted in increased workplace injuries. They also found that with the supervisors who placed a higher priority on safety, there was a weaker connection between insomnia and workplace injuries.

Sleep disorder experts report the following:

  • Between 20-40 percent of all adults have insomnia during any given year
  • About one in three people will have insomnia at some point in their lives
  • More than 70 million Americans have sleep disorders with 60 percent of those being a chronic sleep disorder
  • Sleep problems add an estimated $15.9 billion to health care costs in the United States

A Canadian study links the sleep disorder of obstructive sleep apnea to the increased risk of workplace accidents while driving. The researchers looked at the records of more than 1,200 sleep clinic patients and discovered that the individuals who had sleep apnea had more than double the risk of being involved in a workplace injury, and they were also three times more likely to be injured in an accident that was caused by their own inattention such as from a slip and fall. Obstructive sleep apnea is a health condition that causes a person to stop breathing temporarily while they are sleeping, and it affects more than 22 million Americans.

Some of the biggest industrial accidents in the world such as the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant disaster, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill, and even the Space Shuttle Challenger accident could all be traced to sleep loss, and the lapses in judgement and accuracy that can be the result of sleepiness, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Common sleep disorders

There are a few common sleep disorders including the following:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Insomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep (PLMS)
  • Nightmares or sleep walking

If you or your coworkers commonly fall asleep during the day, or can often appear lethargic or disengaged with what is going on around them, they could be suffering from a sleep disorder. All the sleep disorders listed here can be diagnosed and treated medically.

If you drive as part of your work tasks and you know that you are dealing with a lack of sleep or sleep apnea, it is vital that you visit your doctor and get advice about how to treat your sleep problems. If you have been injured in a workplace accident, whether the cause was the person’s sleepiness (or your own) or not, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries through the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation program.

Have you been hurt at work during the course of doing your regular work tasks? If so, the experienced Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates are here to protect your right to fair compensation. You are welcome to call 888.PITT.LAW or fill out our contact form to make an appointment for a free consultation at one of our many convenient office locations. We proudly serve clients throughout Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties.