Working in snow and ice management often requires long hours and late nights. While some may consider plowing for hours on end without rest a badge of honor, in reality it’s dangerous and could be deadly. Sleep deprivation and driver fatigue must be taken seriously to ensure the safety of the team and the general public that may be proximate to operations.
- Lack of sleep impairs reflexes, reaction time, judgment, vision, information processing, short-term memory, performance, motivation, vigilance and patience.
- Long-term effects include increased risks of heart attack, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Warning signs include yawning; inability to keep your eyes open; nodding off and trouble keeping your head up; inability to remember what happened in the past few minutes; close calls while operating the vehicle or equipment
Quick tips to reduce the impact of sleep deprivation:
- Be prepared. You know the storm is coming so get extra sleep before it hits. Called “prophylactic naps” they may decrease some of the negative performance and alertness effects.
- Take a break. Get out of the vehicle and stretch or do brief exercises. Have a snack or something to drink.
- Grab some caffeine. Used in moderation, caffeine can help sustain you for a longer period – especially when your body’s circadian rhythm descends around 11 p.m. If your floorboards are littered with empty cans of energy drinks, rethink your strategy. Choose tea or coffee in moderation.
- Power naps. Take 15 to 30 minutes to park and power down. Studies have shown that even napping a short amount of time can boost alertness. If it’s an extended event, companies may consider booking hotel rooms in advance or setting up cots in the company’s office, and establish a schedule to cycle workers through so they get a comfortable rest.
- Don’t be a hero. Companies should create a workable environment so employees will feel comfortable telling their supervisor they need a break. Train your team to identify the signs and how to prepare and manage sleep deficits to ensure safer, healthier workers.
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