Top 5 Dangers of Sleep Deprivation For Forklift Operators

Operating a forklift requires attention, precision and reaction. All three of these attributes can easily be hampered when a lack of sufficient sleep builds up over the span of a week.

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Did you know that 63 percent of Americans claim their sleeping needs are not met during the week? With the rigors and challenges of working eight hours per day, commuting to and from work and balancing a personal life, it is never been more difficult for workers to get the sleep that they need so they can be ready and energized for work. Operating a forklift requires attention, precision and reaction. All three of these attributes can easily be hampered when a lack of sufficient sleep builds up over the span of a week. There are many perils that can arise from this.

Here are the top five dangers of sleep deprivation for forklift operators:

1. Lack of Communication — According to EHS Today, when workers are tired, they become poor communicators. According to numerous studies conducted by researchers, many noted that sleep deprived individuals reduce intensity in their voices, halt for longer reasons without any due cause, enunciate very poorly and mumble instructions inaudibly. Additionally fatigued employees are more likely to mispronounce, slur words, repeat themselves and lose their place in a sentence sequence. Communication is vital in any material handling operation and thus any hindrance in the fluid exchange of communication can almost certainly diminish warnings of perceived hazards. The results of such an event can slow reaction times and be catastrophic.

2. Enhanced Risk For Distraction — A lack of sleep often results in an increased risk to be distracted by virtue of the fact fatigue makes it hard to focus. For a sleep deprived individual the most simplest of events can immerse any forklift operator more than a well-rested individual. It is important for any operator to use a forklift with their hands free and eyes always in front of them. For those feeling a bit tired even this may be difficult to do and thus it is important only fresh employees get behind the wheel.

3. Falling Asleep Behind The Wheel — One of the more obvious risks of sleep deprivation is the simple fact that the forklift operator has a higher chance of falling asleep behind the wheel. The effects of such an event can be catastrophic. Falling asleep behind the wheel can result in in the obvious crash, dropping of a load or potential injury to employees in the path of a vehicle being operated by a forklift driver that fell asleep behind the wheel. A lack of sleep can cause any forklift operator to fall asleep behind the wheel for fatigue can subtly sneak up on any person at any given time.

4. Fatigue Worsens As Deprivation Continues — The only way to cure sleep deprivation is to get sleep. No amount of caffeine or stimulants can ever make up for a sleep debt. Therefore, for those operators that continue to burn the midnight oil wishing to drive a forklift on limited sleep, it is imperative to get adequate rest. Many experts agree that 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep provides a slew of benefits and can undo some of the sleep debt that builds up. On days where workers need to be revitalized for material handling operations, this practice should also be a priority.

5. Increased Health Risks — Besides the most known issues with sleep deprivation, there are many other latent effects that can result as well. Most notably, stress. Stress in forklift operations can yield disastrous circumstances. Most significantly in hot and rigorous environments, stress can increase the risk of cardiac-related complications which are furthered by the environs that cause the cardiovascular system to work harder. Failing to sleep adequately can hinder performance and further drive advanced health risks from the body not functioning at its best capability.

Tom Reddon (@TomReddon) is a forklift specialist and blog manager for the National Forklift Exchange. He also sits on the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA) Executive Dialogue team.

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