New Emergency Responder Training Reducing Risks From Working Long Hours

A new free, web-based training, released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), will help emergency responders and their managers better cope with the demands of emergency operations when deployed to a disaster site. Interim NIOSH Training for Emergency Responders: Reducing Risks Associated with Long Work Hours is designed for emergency workers who respond to epidemics such as Ebola, weather-related disasters, earthquakes and other catastrophic events.


The 30-minute online training program provides strategies to reduce the health and safety risks that are linked to working long hours during the daytime. Long work hours, coupled with the high physical and emotional strain associated with emergency response and recovery operations, can prevent responders from getting enough sleep. Insufficient sleep puts responders, and those around them, at risk for fatigue-related mistakes that can lead to injuries and death. One study of long day shifts during emergency response operations found that one in three people in the U.S. Coast Guard who deployed to Hurricane Katrina reported getting five hours or less of sleep each night. Researchers noted that this gave them three times the risk for depression; slips, trips, and falls; muscle strain; and dehydration.


“Workers and their managers across many sectors—healthcare, public safety, utilities, construction, humanitarian aid, and clean up services—need to address the importance of sleep and plan for it like other critical logistical items to carry out operations, such as having enough water, food, and supplies,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “This training is an important resource to promote the health resilience among those who are on the front lines of a natural or man-made disaster.”


The training is designed to increase knowledge and promote better personal behaviors and workplace systems that will reduce the risks associated with working long hours. The training covers:


  • Dangers of working while sleepy and fatigued
  • Basic information about sleep and fatigue
  • Personal factors that could lead to higher health and safety risks
  • Better work schedule design and other management strategies
  • Signs and symptoms of fatigue in response workers
  • Tips for improving sleep at night and alertness on the job
  • Preventing fatigue from strain to muscles and joints
  • Protecting from fatigue due to excessive heat


The course is available on the NIOSH website.


See the CDC Announcement


See also Medical Law Perspectives, February 2013 Report: Emergency Medical Services: Liability and Immunity for Medical Rescue