Fatigue is a life-threatening occupational hazard faced by workers nationwide, including California. Many workers’ compensation claims are filed due to injuries and even deaths caused by the lack of sleep. Not only is sufficient sleep necessary for overall good health, but also alertness and clear thinking. Sleep deprivation is the primary cause of fatigue, and in many cases, shift work is to blame.
Operators of machines and equipment in industrial and manufacturing facilities and those on construction sites are at a higher risk than most, along with commercial vehicle drivers. Fatigue compromises reaction times and the ability to maintain focus, which often leads to work errors and higher rates of accidents and injuries. Safety authorities say sleep deprivation has the same effect as alcohol, and workers who have been without sleep for 24 hours are affected in the same way as people with a blood alcohol content higher than .08.
Life-threatening involuntary micro-sleeps can occur in fatigued workers. Those are moments of unconsciousness, and although the periods are brief, devastating accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. These risks are part of the reasons why truckers, health care workers, and airline workers have strict regulations to control hours of service.
Workers and employers in California can prevent fatigue-related accidents by managing work hours and allowing frequent rest breaks. However, those who suffer work-related injuries are typically eligible for compensation through the state-regulated insurance program. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can assist with the navigation of benefits claims and make sure the injured worker receives maximum compensation under applicable laws.