Interim NIOSH Training for Emergency Responders: Reducing Risks Associated with Long Work Hours

Four images of Emergency Responders, combined in a banner image.

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

I. Introduction

The intended audience for this training is emergency responders who may need to work longer than normal day shifts.

This training program was developed for emergency workers who deploy to work at disaster sites caused by weather, earthquakes, epidemics, and other catastrophic events. This training gives strategies to reduce risks from fatigue due to the need to work long day shifts during the emergency response and recovery operations.

Although certain parts of your deployment will be unique, others are more universal:

  • Deployment can be a very rewarding experience.
  • Deployment can mean extended and unusually long shifts.
  • During deployment, it is important to remember your own health.

This online training addresses the last two points and will help you take care of yourself while deployed.

One in three in the U.S. Coast Guard who deployed to Hurricane Katrina reported getting 5 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.

“[Previous] findings and those of our study underscore the importance of adequate sleep for emergency responders. Leadership personnel in emergency responses should be sensitive to this issue. Although this may seem like an unattainable goal, given the nature of emergency responders’ jobs/duties, it is also a critical issue to address, given the serious short- and long-term consequences.”

-From Rusiecki et al. [2014]. JOEM 56(8):820-833.

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Page last reviewed: April 1, 2020