Monday, September 3, 2007

SLEEP LOSS & FATIGUE – A SAFETY HAZARD

There has been a lot of talk lately about a nationwide "sleep deficit." Apparently, people are not getting enough sleep.
Because of this, fatigue has been found to be a contributing factor in a number of high visibility accidents, such as Three
Mile Island, Chernobyl, and some air transport incidents. Assuming this is true, perhaps this is an important safety
concern.

Probably the greatest hazard associated with lack of sleep is the deterioration of physical and mental abilities that take
place when you are tired. It may take longer to think out a problem; your coordination may diminish and your reaction
time may be slowed. You know the feeling.. .you seem to be one step off, all day long. Fortunately, the problem is fairly
easy to resolve—get enough sleep. Most studies show that people need a good eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per
night. Some need more, some less. When the longer daylight hours of spring and summer arrive, it may be even more
tempting to stay up later in the evening, at the expense of rest. It's not a good idea to short yourself on the rest you need.

A number of factors heighten fatigue when you are already tired. Alcohol is a depressant, along with a number of other
drugs. A drink when you are tired will slow you down more than a drink when you are well rested. The alcohol will also
interfere with restful sleep when you do go to bed. Drinking when fatigued is not a good idea and when done to excess
can effect you the entire next day.

I’m sure you've seen the warnings on the side of prescription or over-the-counter medicine containers. "Warning...may
cause drowsiness. Do not drive or operate machinery when taking this medication." Unfortunately, many people ignore
this warning and put both themselves and others at risk of injury. Don’t tempt fate; heed the warning. NEVER mix
alcohol and drugs. This combination alone could be fatal. If you are given prescription drugs, be sure to ask your doctor
about the side effects. You will be better off staying at home, as opposed to going to work impaired.

When many people think of safety, they think of machine guarding, maintenance, and other mechanical factors. Let's not
forget the most important element in safety — the human factor. Your body is a sophisticated machine. It too requires
care, attention and adequate rest.

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