Atlanta, GA – Security guards have always had a concern for long term vigilance fatigue while dealing with the potential for serious threats over time. The vigilance fatigue occurs from a constantly heightened sense of threat while performing security duties.
Humans are not designed to work at night and yet there are many jobs, including security, that require 24/7 alertness. Our metabolism drops in the evenings and the brain begins its sleep operations. Lack of proper sleep causes cognitive fatique which can jeapordize the ability to perform work safely and properly. Every human, without exception is subject to diminished performance from fatique.
Many security guards who work night shifts, feel pressure to revert to a “normal” schedule on weekends in order to participate in activities with family and friends. This leads to constant disruption of the natural circadian rhythm’s, preventing the body from even slight adjustments to the overnight work schedule.
There are several things that can be done by the individual guard to mitigate the effects of disruption of the sleep rhythm.
- Anchor Sleep – schedule a 4 hour block of sleep at the same time everyday, supplemented with additional sleep at other times.
- Tactical use of caffeine – limit caffeine use to times when you need to counter fatigue. Its effect will be greater if you don’t consume caffeine at non-critical times.
- Medications – melatonin is available over the counter as well as prescription drugs to encourage sleep at appropriate times.
As an organization, steps to encourage good sleep habits by security guards can include:
- Schedule enough people to do the job well
- Shift length – limit shifts to no more than 12 hours in length, with sufficient time off to get good sleep between shifts.
- Predictable shifts – insure that guards have sufficient notice of their upcoming schedules and try to keep it as consistent as possible over time.
The danger occurs when complacency results in a lag in vigilance. The hours on end, especially on night shifts, without a security incident is the most common problem leading to lack of vigilance.