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NEW YORK, N.Y. June 15, 2009 – As lawyers know, a frightening variety of accidents happen every day at construction sites in New York State due to the inherently dangerous nature of the work such as heights, holes, bad weather, loud noises and the use of defective or damaged equipment and heavy machinery that pose threats to workers’ safety.
Now, according to two researchers at Michigan State University, sleep deprivation, one of the most pervasive health problems in the United States, can add to the dangers that put workers’ health and safety at risk, particularly when performing complex tasks that require a high level of attention, as much construction work does.
“In the days immediately following the kick-off of Daylight Savings Time,” noted David Perecman, a New York construction accident lawyer, “we see a slight increase in the number of calls we get from hardhat workers who have been injured on the job.”
Two separate studies by the Michigan State researchers confirm that, in fact, there is a 5.7 percent jump in the national rate of workplace injuries immediately after the clocks are turned forward in March, which results in the loss of about one hour’s sleep for American workers.
Overall, the researchers noted in their report (which will be published in the September issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology) nearly 68% more workdays are lost to construction related injuries to workers caused by lack of sleep.
“A lot of workers I meet in my practice,” Perecman said, “do not get the sleep they need because their schedules do not always allow adequate time for it. Others are unable to get a good night’s rest due to sleep disorders, chronic pain, medications, stress and other existing injuries and health problems. They do not know the negative effects lack of sleep can have on their health and their ability to function on the job.”
Perecman points out that because of severe cutbacks in new housing construction in New York City, and pressure on builders to finish projects faster than usual, workers are putting in more time on the job, and are being asked to work faster.
“As a result, we see a dramatic increase in worker injuries at construction sites,” he said.
“In situations like these,” he added, “if a worker says he wants to stop work and take a nap, or leave early to go home and get some sleep, he may simply be asked not to return to work on that site the next day
Compounding the problem, he said most workers just assume that feeling tired on the job is normal and unavoidable.
Perecman said that just as employers take special construction safety precautions in the event of inclement weather, they should make accommodations for Daylight Savings Time.
The Michigan State researchers suggest that employers could let their workers with high-risk jobs start work an hour later for one or two days following the Daylight Savings Time switch.
“Until workers, and employers,” Perecman said, “recognize the important link between feeling rested and job performance, productivity will suffer and workers will get hurt.
“Bottom-line, whether you’re an employee, or an employer,” said the top New York construction accident lawyer, “safer days at the workplace depend on how good a night’s rest you get.”