I know what you’re thinking, “Wait. What? Why? And how?”
Keep reading, and you’ll find that all of them can be traced to sleep deprivation.
Hey, the brightest minds and leaders need sleep to function well too!
There have been several major disasters throughout history that have been linked to sleep deprivation, including the 1989 Exxon oil spill, the Challenger space shuttle disaster, and the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown.
Let’s start with the 1989 Exxon oil spill, which was caused by human error, specifically a mistake made by the ship's captain, who was on the bridge for more than 24 hours straight.
He had been awake for over 18 hours at the time of the accident and was suffering from sleep deprivation, which led to him not being able to correctly judge the ship's position, resulting in the grounding of the ship and the subsequent oil spill.
Now, the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986 was also caused by human error. Engineers had identified a potential problem with the design of the shuttle's booster rocket, but their concerns were not taken seriously by management.
The engineers had been working long hours, and some of them had been working on the project for over a year without a break, which may have contributed to their lack of attention to detail and oversight.
Noticing a pattern here? Now imagine what happened to the infamous Chernobyl nuclear power plant and how it made it to this article.
The Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in 1986 was caused by a combination of factors, including a design flaw in the reactor, operator error, and inadequate safety procedures.
The operators were working overnight, and some of them had been awake for over 24 hours, which may have contributed to their lack of attention to detail and poor decision-making.
You’ve probably noticed it as well: in all these instances, sleep deprivation played a role, even if it was not the sole cause.
In short, lack of sleep can affect cognitive abilities such as attention, memory, decision-making, and problem-solving, which can lead to errors and accidents.
It's worth noting that in high-risk industries such as aviation, nuclear, and maritime, adequate sleep and fatigue management are considered important aspects of safety culture.
So keep that in mind the next time you’re managing an active nuclear power plant or just simply driving home from work.