Too many employees work long hours for several days in row without sufficient sleep...and this is a recipe for disaster. When you haven't had enough sleep, you're more likely to feel tired, depressed, keyed up or irritable. That's why a jobsite staffed with fatigued workers creates a hazardous work environment.

The problem with sleep debt

Experts say that the average adult requires 7 ВЅ to 8 ВЅ hours of uninterrupted sleep every day. When you don't catch enough Zzz's each night, you build up a dangerous sleep debt that adds up over time.

If you only sleep 4 hours one night, your work performance may not be affected right away. However, repeated nights of insufficient or disrupted sleep over a number of days or weeks will eventually wear you down. Over time, this growing sleep debt will not only make you feel tired and irritable, but it could ultimately lead to depression, loss of appetite and digestive problems. Insufficient sleep can also increase your risk of getting sick.

Fatigued Workers = Dangerous Jobsite

If you and/or your co-workers are sleep deprived on the worksite, you're more likely to make mistakes or miss potentially dangerous situations. Sleepy workers often react more slowly than usual, show poor judgment and are unable to stay focused on the job at hand. When you're tired, you may also lose motivation, become forgetful and take greater risks. This could lead to serious accidents and injuries on the jobsite. It all adds up to create an unsafe work environment for yourself and your fellow workers.

This is why it's so important to ensure that you get at least 7 ВЅ hours of sleep each and every night. If you are planning to work an extended shift, make sure that you make time for a good night's sleep as soon as your shift is over. While it may be tempting to run out after work and socialize with your friends, it's more important to your safety and overall health to go home and get plenty of sleep.

Employers can help

Employers can pitch in and help make the workplace safer by ensuring their workers get plenty of sleep. Some employers require a certain number of mandatory off-duty hours. This increases the likelihood that workers will go home and get enough sleep before they return to the jobsite.

If workers are taking on extended shifts, employers can help by offering prepared meals and a quite place where workers can rest during their breaks. Supervisors should also be aware of the dangers of workers face when they are exposed to loud noise, chemicals and extreme temperatures for extended periods of time.

If you are planning on asking employees to work lengthy hours, make sure that you consult an occupational hygiene specialist first. This kind of expert can evaluate the situation and determine whether or not it's safe to increase a worker's exposure to these potentially dangerous factors.