Hoping to reduce work-related fatigue among emergency medical services professionals, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the National Association of State EMS Officials partnered to establish a series of guidelines. Thousands of pieces of literature regarding EMS workplace fatigue were reviewed by a panel of experts. Included were recent research which illustrated that more than half of EMS workers are experiencing significant mental and physical fatigue at work, poor sleep quality, and difficulty recovering between stressful shifts. Half of them also admit to getting less than six hours of sleep a day, the medically-accepted required minimum necessary in order to function effectively in high-stress jobs. The panel’s conclusions revealed five recommendations to mitigate fatigue risks:
- Use surveys to measure sleep patterns and fatigue levels.
- Limit work shifts to no more than 24 hours.
- Make caffeine accessible.
- Incorporate on-duty “power” naps.
- Provide programs for education and training of fatigue risk management.
Worker Exhaustion Turns Roads and Rails into Avenues of Death and DestructionA report released in late December 2016 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concludes that most drivers who sleep only five or six hours in a 24-hour period are twice as likely to crash than those who get at least seven hours of sleep. And the less sleep the person behind the wheel gets, the higher the crash rate, according to the findings. Shift work sleep disorder is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It affects people who work “floating” shifts or third shifts (overnight). Sleep deficiencies caused by these unusual work hours negatively affect productivity and safety. Some symptoms include:
- Excessive sleepiness during periods where they would normally be productive and alert
- Insomnia, or trouble falling asleep
- Not feeling rested or refreshed after waking
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of energy
- Irritability or depression
- Difficulty with their personal relationships.