Week 4 of NSM – Impairment on the Job


In every industry, employees need to be healthy and focused to stay safe at work. Impairment is a major roadblock to workplace safety and the effects are more common than you think. The National Safety Council outlines several impairment risks and how to manage them to make sure you are able to work safely.

Lack of Sleep. According to EHS Today, 63 percent of Americans report that their sleep needs aren’t met during the week. Missing just a few hours of sleep can hamper your abilities. In fact, EHS Today says 22 hours of sleep deprivation results in neurobehavioral performance impairments that are comparable to a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level (legally drunk in the United States). Even if you only drive to and from work, this can be a serious risk. If you regularly have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about getting screened for sleep disorders.

Prescription Drugs. According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUSH), an estimated 4.3% of respondents age 18 years or older reported illicit opioid use in the past year. An estimated 66.7% of these self-reported illicit opioid users were employed full- or part-time. Many prescription drugs, including opioids and others, can impair your ability to work and drive. Before starting a new prescription, ask your doctor about any potential side effects and how it might impact your ability to work or drive.

Alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant drug that can affect problem-solving skills, judgment, concentration, reaction times, and coordination. Impairment begins with the first drink. Just because you have experienced feelings of impairment from alcohol before does not mean you can overcome them or work through them.

Cannabis. Cannabis taken in any form and at any dose can have varying effects for different amounts of time. Even if cannabis is legal for recreational purposes in your state, educate yourself on its impairing effects and your employer’s policies to stay safe. When cannabis is used to manage pain, treat it as a medical substance, not a recreational one.

Stress/Anxiety. Emotional impairment is another serious risk. The American Institute of Stress lists the main causes of stress as workload, people issues, juggling work/personal lives, and lack of job security. If something is causing you stress or anxiety, whether on the job or back home, it can affect your focus at work and potentially make you less safe.

Heat. Heat can be more than just a nuisance in the workplace – it can cause serious health issues. Heat-related illnesses can range from heat cramps and heat rash, to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), every year dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. That’s why we at Portacool use our own evaporative cooling technology to keep employees cool, comfortable, and, most importantly, safe during their workday. If you work in a hot environment, be sure to take breaks as able, stay hydrated, and use PPE around hot machinery.

While this week brings National Safety Month to a close, that doesn’t mean our focus should shift away from safety. It is important to always be on the lookout for safety hazards and risks in the workplace, as they can affect employers and employees alike. Injuries and safety incidents can cause physical, emotional, and financial pain for all involved. Remaining diligent with safety procedures and communicating those to employees can help increase productivity and make the work environment a better place.

*Information pulled from National Safety Council’s National Safety Month Materials –