According to a federal investigation into sleep health in the workplace, tired workers are as impaired as drunk drivers. In an environment as high risk as construction, the implications of this are particularly serious.
A recent government inquiry found that tired workers are a danger to themselves and others, similarly to the threat presented by drunk drivers on the road.
The investigation found that shifts affecting regular sleep are dangerous and cost the economy by making workers less productive. It also increases the risk of accidents, injuries and errors.
The Bedtime Reading inquiry, found shift work is linked to conditions associated with poor sleep, including obesity, sleep disorders, mental health conditions and even cancer.
According to the study, having a blood alcohol reading of 0.05 is the equivalent of being tired with 23 per cent of car crashes on Victorian roads caused by drivers who haven’t had enough sleep.
Fly-in-fly-out workers have been found to be more prone to accidents due to tiredness as well as workers who work long shifts and night shifts.
The study found that rostering impacts negatively on sleep duration and quality. The research also found,
Workers who are tired have a 50 per cent risk of occupational injury, absenteeism and error or safety violation. Of these at-risk individuals, up to 45 per cent work in safety-sensitive occupations such as law enforcement, or public or commercial transport.
The study associates a lack of sleep with impaired performance in the workplace, and says not getting enough sleep leads to workers being less efficient on the job. It also leads to people calling in sick.
The results of the inquiry has sparked calls for the government to take action on the major recommendation that sleep be considered a “third pillar” of healthy living, together with diet and exercise.
Researchers have also called for a major national public awareness campaign about the importance of sleep and health in the workplace.
This lack of sleep costs business, individuals and the community more broadly, according to The Appleton Institute, who conducted the study. They suggest the costs in the one year period over 2016-2017 was somewhere around $24 billion.
Many Australian workers are sleepy at work, sleepy on the roads on their commute to work, and may experience errors in the workplace or may miss work because they are too tired,” the study says.
Safe Work Australia has recommended that duties for managing fatigue in the workplace be allocated at every level. It has said that executives, directors and managers as well as individual employees share the responsibility of managing fatigue in the workplace.