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Dreaming of a safer workplace? You could wake up to that reality

Work injuries can happen to anyone at any time. Despite advances in work safety protocols and oversight, there were almost three million work-related illnesses and injuries in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While there are hazardous work places with a higher likelihood of accident, it's not always in jobs you might expect. Yes, careers in the oil, gas and construction industries are dangerous, but health care workers have a high rate of injury as well, from duties such as lifting patients.

While workers' compensation helps cover some costs, work-related injuries are expensive, not just for companies and taxpayers, but for employees themselves, in terms of both physical and mental pain and medical bills. With so many regulations in place to ensure worker safety, why do workplace injuries still occur on such a frequent basis? The answer may surprise you; according to a recent study by the National Safety Council, the number one culprit in work accidents is lack of sleep.

The dangers of exhaustion

A survey of 2,000 workers indicates that over 40 percent of employees do not get enough restful sleep to remain safe at their jobs. Lack of sleep comes at a heavy cost, affecting workers in many areas, including their ability to do the following:

  • Be productive
  • Think clearly
  • Make informed decisions
  • Avoid accidents

In fact, data from the National Sleep Foundation indicates that sleep-deprived workers are up to 70 percent more likely to be involved in industrial accidents on the job or report work-related injuries. This is even more upsetting when you consider that work accidents don't always simply mean injury; sometimes, they're fatal. Another study of over 50,000 workers found that those with sleep problems were almost twice as likely to die in an on-the-job accident.

Leading risk factors

Of course, many jobs are already dangerous, even before you consider sleep-deprivation. Irregular or taxing working conditions exacerbate the problem and nearly 100 percent of workers have at least one of the leading risk factors for fatigue at work, which include:

  • Working long shifts without regular breaks
  • Working early in the morning
  • Working late at night
  • Working more than 50 hours per week
  • Long work commutes

This is especially unsettling given that 44 percent of employees say they have trouble focusing, 53 percent feel less productive and a whopping 76 percent of employees admit to feeling tired at work. Sleep deprivation is literally an accident waiting to happen.

Getting the rest you need

So how can you avoid becoming a statistic? Get some quality rest before heading in to work. It might be tempting to stay up and watch a second episode of your favorite show, but adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Despite this, 30 percent admit to getting an average of less than six hours of sleep, per a National Health Interview Survey. Not only that, but these approximations could be skewed, as research indicates people overestimate their sleep time by approximately 45 minutes.

In addition, the quality of sleep that you're getting matters. To get a more restful night's sleep, experts recommend abstaining from alcohol, heavy exercise and caffeine for at least six hours prior to going to bed, which can help prevent restlessness and sleep interruptions. Adequate rest can go a long way towards helping you avoid work accidents.

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