WORKPLACE / OCT. 26, 2015
version 9, draft 9

When It's REALLY Not Okay to Fall Asleep at Work

It is an unspoken rule; you simply should not fall asleep at work. It is disrespectful towards your superiors and co-workers, it sends a wrong impression, and it is utterly unprofessional. Even though sleeping at work would positively impact your health and productivity, it is still not always okay to do it. You are the only one who would benefit from such an arrangement, so out of respect for the system, we don’t tap into our full potentials. However, if you are too exhausted, and accidentally fall asleep at your workplace, no one will make a fuss about it. Truth be told, it can happen to anyone, so people tend to show understanding.

See Also: Haven’t Slept? How to Spend Your Workday without Feeling Tired and Sleepy

Unfortunately, not all jobs are the same, some of them bear more responsibility than others. In other words, there are jobs where your harmless nap may very well cause a catastrophe. So, here is the list of jobs where staying awake and vigilant means the difference between life and death.          

1. Lifeguard

It is summertime, the weather is sunny and everyone is having a good time on their vacation, yet as a lifeguard, you need to work. After spending hours at your post, just chilling in the shade, who wouldn’t want to get a little shut eye. Despite the fact that the conditions are perfect for an afternoon nap, things can go terribly wrong if a lifeguard falls asleep. Since you are constantly on the beach, you learn to tune out the ongoing tumult, making it so much harder to hear when someone is actually calling for help. So, regardless of how tedious your workday seems to be, do not let it take you to the land of Nod. Additionally, you must be on a constant lookout, and warn people if there is a shark approaching – don’t allow your drowsiness to inspire another Jaws sequel.  

2. Doctor

As a doctor you have a somewhat different problem. A lifeguard only has to act when someone needs help, whereas a doctor is constantly surrounded by people who need medical attention. Therefore, people in trouble become your daily routine, and you have to check on them regularly. Since you have so many patients, you never know when someone’s state is going to deteriorate. In other words, if you fall asleep you won’t be able to act on time. Not only that, but if you wake up and are still drowsy, you can give an inadequate treatment, and a lot of serious conditions warrant your undivided attention and focus. The same applies for surgeons and nurses – focus is extremely important for your job.   

3. Airline Pilot

I know that when you are high above the earth, flying through the sky, it all seems like a wonderful dream. Except that it isn’t – it is your job to navigate a flying machine filled with passengers. Many people are traumatized by the fact that they have to travel by plane, and a pilot who falls asleep will make their living nightmare even more living-nightmare-ish. In February 2008, there was an incident with the pilots on GOL airline. The pilots were accused of falling asleep during a flight from Honolulu, since they missed Hilo airport by 15 miles. Afterwards they turned around and landed safely, but imagine the terror the passengers had to experience when they realized something went wrong.

However, this is not that uncommon of an occurrence, as a lot of pilots and co-pilots have admitted to falling asleep during their flight due to fatigue. Perhaps it should take a mutual effort, and a bit of re-organization in order to prevent this from happening.   

4. Bus Driver

gotham school bus accident

There is a grim joke related to this topic – “I want to die peacefully in my sleep, just like my grandfather. Not screaming in terror, like the passengers on his bus.”  Much like pilots, bus drivers are prone to fatigue, however, a bus has no auto-pilot, so it is actually more dangerous than falling asleep in a cockpit. In March 2011 a bus returning from Connecticut crashed, which resulted in 15 fatalities, and many other passengers sustaining grave injuries. The driver was not driving under the influence, but he also denied falling asleep, while one of the passengers claims that he saw the bus driver sleeping.    

5. Air Traffic Controller

You have a huge responsibility towards the passengers, as well as, the entire airplane staff. All these people rely on your accurate guidance to know when it is safe to land and take off. Nevertheless, accidents can still occur. Sometimes communication equipment can malfunction and sometimes an air traffic controller can fall asleep. Not too long ago there was a single airline traffic controller on duty, but all of that changed after March 2011. An airline traffic controller at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport fell asleep. Luckily, two planes scheduled to land that night managed to do so without any incidents. The chief of airline traffic control resigned after that night, and a new policy was introduced. Now there are always two airline traffic controllers on duty, just in case something similar happens.

6. Nuclear Plant Engineer

If you play with fire, you get burned. When you play with a nuclear power plant, well, you get blown to bits. This is a viable source of energy, but the danger levels are incredible here, which is why so many people monitor the whole operation. In March 1987 not one, but four operators were found sleeping on duty, and as a result, the entire Peach Bottom Nuclear Generating Station was issued a shutdown order. If you sleep on duty here, not only do you endanger human lives, but lives of every living thing within the blast radius.

I know that Homer Simpson is a funny guy, but by no means are you to consider him a role model. Simpsons do not portray what working in a nuclear power plant is all about. In October 2007, CBS news aired a story detailing how nearly a dozen security guards fell asleep on duty in a nuclear power plant. There are security cameras all around you, so either these people have no concern for safety, or the jobs are so exhausting that even being surrounded by cameras can’t prevent you from taking a nap.

7. Police Officer

Being a police officer is a stressful job, and you face many dangers, but if you are sleeping rather than going on patrol, then it’s no wonder that crime has the upper hand – after all, crime never sleeps. Even if you are awakened by your com unit and immediately rush to the location, you’ll still lack focus. It takes time before our body can get back to functioning properly after waking up. Besides, even if everything is alright, you can be penalized if you are caught sleeping on duty. The fine for sleeping on duty is $75- at least that was what a Washington, D.C. police officer was fined in 1947. In other words, if you keep sleeping on duty, you are only losing money rather than earning it.  

See Also: A Lack of Sleep Can Ruin Your Career

Basically, any job related to public and environment safety, does not tolerate this seemingly minor slip. Also jobs like nanny, or teacher are extremely unforgiving when it comes to dozing off, especially if the kids you are in charge of are troublemakers.

Have you ever fallen asleep while on duty? Let us know in the comments sections below…

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