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Around 15 million workers across the country clock-in to work when many other people are falling asleep. Working the night shift is a reality for many employees, from police officers to nurses, and factory workers to retail stock workers.

But new research indicates that working the night shift can lead employees to face heightened risks of workplace accidents.

The main concern is worker fatigue

Most Maryland employees who work the night shift might understand how much of a challenge it can be to get good sleep. This is often due to the interruption of their circadian rhythm. On top of that, many employees must still raise their families during the day.

However, the lack of sleep is not only a challenge for these employees but also a significant risk.

Safety and Health Magazine reports that fatigue from lack of sleep contributes to nearly one in ten work injuries. However, researchers believe that fatigue is likely a bigger problem since it is hard to measure for two reasons:

  1. Not many employees realize when fatigue influences an accident, so they do not report it.
  2. Work injury reports rarely ask about how much sleep an employee gets or if they are fatigued.

Therefore, it might be difficult to keep track of these risks, but they are real dangers that night-shift workers must understand.

What are the risks of the night shift?

Working long hours at night and not getting enough sleep often impairs workers by:

  • Reducing their ability to react quickly
  • Minimizing a worker’s physical and mental coordination
  • Increasing the chance of employees making serious errors
  • Distracting workers from the task at hand
  • Causing employees to fall asleep on the job

The night shift and consistent fatigue can also increase an employee’s chances of developing a chronic illness, such as diabetes or cancer.

Employees: Do not underestimate the power of sleep

Most night-shift workers would be entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits if they suffered an injury at work, even if fatigue contributed to the accident (Maryland Code, Labor and Employment § 9-501). However, employees can also take action to avoid a severe workplace accident.

Employees who ensure they obtain the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep can reduce their risk of an injury considerably. So, the most beneficial plan of action for Maryland employees is to find ways to get more sleep so that they can stay safe on the job.

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