I recently had the chance to participate in the NSC’s Fatigue Blue Ribbon Panel discussion, and it was truly eye-opening. We’ve known for years that rotating shifts, extended work days/weeks, and external factors related to the demands of life can lead to lack of adequate rest and result in inattentiveness during waking hours. As a company, we’ve experienced firsthand the results of insufficient sleep in the form of workplace incidents. We’ve adjusted shift schedules to align better with sleep patterns, limited work hours to allow for downtime, and instituted technology solutions to monitor operator attentiveness when behind the wheel. All of these measures, however, provide only a partial solution to the problem.
In our 24/7 society, we’ve been taught to admire those who push themselves the most, working longer and harder. This can earn them recognition, but it often times comes at the sacrifice of sleep and work-life balance. One of the topics we discussed in the Panel centered around education and the need to ensure that both in the workplace and the home, the importance of proper rest is understood.
Statistics correlating the impact of sleep deprivation to the effects of alcohol consumption really help to paint the picture. One study  showed that after 17 to 19 hours without sleep, an individual’s ability to perform certain tasks was impaired to the same degree – or worse – as those who tested with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 percent. Unfortunately, unlike with drugs or alcohol, there’s no easy way to measure fatigue.
Creating a culture, through education and policy, where employees understand the importance of sleep, are comfortable reporting instances of fatigue prior to an event, and are accommodated through rest/recovery periods during the work day will go a long way to improving our safety outcomes. The National Safety Council’s efforts to highlight this issue have increased my organization’s focus on this important topic and hopefully yours as well.
Justin Dugas is Director, Safety and Health for USG Corporation, producer of Sheetrock® brand wallboard and a variety of innovative building materials and systems used in commercial construction and homes worldwide. Working out of USG’s Chicago, Illinois, headquarters, Justin is responsible for the company’s workplace and consumer safety and health programs. USG is a proud member of the National Safety Council’s Campbell Institute and was the 2016 recipient of the Robert W. Campbell Award.
 Occup Environ Med 2000;57:649-655