The exhaustion epidemic: Mitigating fatigue-related hazards


Blame it on Thomas Edison. His invention of the light bulb some 140 years ago led to a monumental shift in cultural norms, and average sleep times declined from nine to seven hours or less.

In all fairness, his invention can’t shoulder all the blame for the fatigue epidemic that’s sweeping the U.S. Expanding waist lines have led to the growing prevalence of sleep apnea, leaving many dazed and confused. Twenty-two million Americans suffer from the problem, and more than 80% of sufferers are undiagnosed, according to data from the American Sleep Apnea Association.

Apart from a long list of health-related consequences, lack of sleep can have more far-reaching, catastrophic ramifications for the industrial and transportation sectors. Anyone who operates machinery or watches a process console is a threat to safety when fatigued.

National Safety Council study found that injury risk begins increasing beyond an 8-hour shift, with a 13% increase in the 10th hour and a 30% increase in the 12th hour. In a recent study released by AAA, researchers determined that 9.5% of all crashes and 10.8% of crashes resulting in significant property damage involved drowsiness.

Fortunately, some leaders in manufacturing and industry are beginning to shine a light on the problem and for the first time are taking steps to incorporate fatigue risk management guidelines into their work practices. Read the full story.