Study: Poor Sleep Links to Construction Injuries


In a recent study completed by researchers at Colorado State University, employers could improve workplace safety by ensuring their employees get a good night’s sleep.

The study on the relationship between construction workers sleep patterns, accidents and injuries is slated to be published on Nov. 29 in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

About the Study

As part of Oregon Healthy Workforce study, university researchers dissected various surveys taken by construction workers at two different Portland-based public work agencies over a 12-month period.

According to CSU, a business case was made, identifying the connection of poor sleep to the risks of workplace injuries and accidents. The case also suggests that employers should prioritize efforts to ensure that their workers receive proper sleep as to avoid these occurrences, in addition to avoiding financial risks, which could also be tied back to sleep, as unsafe behaviors could lead to more workers’ compensation claims and/or lawsuits.

“Organizations, especially safety-sensitive ones like construction, should care about their employees’ sleep, because it can impact the safety of the workplace, and put workers at risk,” said Rebecca Brossoit, Ph.D. student in industrial-organizational psychology at CSU, and a trainee in occupational health psychology through the Mountain and Plains Education and Research Center.

“There’s a business case for caring about sleep,” Brossoit said.

The university is calling the entirety of the sleep and safety relationship “workplace cognitive failures,” or otherwise known as lapses in attention, memory or action at work. Specifically, the report highlights some of the failures as being:

  • Unable to remember correct work procedures or if equipment was shut off;
  • Unintentionally pressing a control switch on machines;
  • Stopping or starting the wrong machine unintentionally; and
  • Daydreaming instead of listening to another coworker.

However, construction workers who surveyed experiencing more insomnia symptoms were reported to experience even more of these “cognitive failures.” According to the university, this information was related to both required and voluntary reduced safety behaviors and more minor injuries.

To take a deeper dive into the correlating reports, besides simply having insomnia symptoms, CSU also looked at “sleep sufficiency,” which refers to the feeling of being well-rested, as another measure of sleep quality and quantity of sleep (although quantity wasn’t related to any safety outcomes examined).

According to Brossoit, sleep quality is more important than quantity in predicting workplace safety.

The paper was co-authored by Leslie Hammer, professor in the Department of Psychology at Portland State University and professor at Oregon Health and Science University; Donald Truxillo, professor in the Department of Psychology at Portland State University and professor in the Department of Work and Employment Studies at the University of Limerick; and Todd Bodner, professor in the Department of Psychology at Portland State University.

What’s Happening Now

CSU researchers are now moving with plans to look at sleep-related interventions; the intersection among work, sleep, and employees’ lives outside of work; and the influence of a lack of sleep in other special populations, such as shift workers.


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