Sleep and workplace safety

Sleep and circadian disorders have widespread effects on alertness and other brain functions, leading to errors, accidents and injuries, especially in high-risk work environments.

Even in advanced nations where safety can be prioritised, poor alertness causes tens of thousands of serious workplace and road injuries. Currently, it is not possible to accurately measure, monitor, and manage alertness levels.

Monash University is the host institution of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Alertness, Safety and Productivity (AlertnessCRC). In this collaboration, MICCN sleep neuroscientists are identifying markers of alertness such as chemicals in blood, saliva and urine, and using these to develop "breathalyzers" for alertness.

A high-performing healthcare industry depends heavily on shift work, but the resulting tiredness and impaired alertness can harm patient health and safety. Another MICCN-CRC project is developing the next generation of systems and tools for alertness management in these settings, using interventions such as scheduling, smart lighting, and individualised sleep-health management. These interventions are being assessed by medical and nursing shift workers across two major teaching hospitals in Melbourne and Adelaide.