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Research Group Studying Officers' Fatigue

July 21, 2005  | 

The National Institute of Justice selected the Harvard Work Hours, Health, and Safety Group to study fatigue in police officers across the United States. On July 1, the Harvard investigators launched a nationwide Web-based research study of the health and safety of police officers.

The study is in the form of a confidential Internet survey of police officers that covers such topics as sleep duration, fatigue, stress, general health, personal and family relationships, job satisfaction, work schedules, motor vehicle crashes, and work-related injuries. Officers across the country will be asked to log on and fill out the survey every month for a year. When the study is completed, participants will be given access to a Website that will detail the findings in an accessible format.

This study is being mounted concurrently with a Comprehensive Police Fatigue Management Program that will be implemented by the health and safety group in one local city police department. Here, the group will develop and implement innovative strategies to reduce fatigue-related accidents and injuries, improve the performance of police, and reduce adverse health consequences—such as hypertension and congestive heart failure—related to common sleep disorders through early diagnosis and treatment. The multifaceted program will include education on sleep and circadian rhythms, caffeine re-education, sleep disorder screening and treatment, and policy improvements.

This nationwide study is intended to expand the understanding of the nature, scope, causes, and consequences of police fatigue and increase the ability to develop guidelines from the local program. In addition, the national survey will serve as a guide toward effective national dissemination of the locally established interventions.

Any sworn officer is eligible to enroll in the nationwide survey. The open enrollment period is July 1 to 31. Interested police officers are encouraged to visit http://workhoursandsafety.org to receive more details and to enroll. Participation is entirely voluntary and visitors to the Website will not be obligated to enroll.

Once a police officer enrolls in the study, he or she will receive password-coded links to the secure survey Websites via e-mail. The officer will initially receive a link to complete a baseline survey and then will receive a link on the 28th of each month to complete the monthly surveys. Surveys should only take about 15 minutes to complete. Participants who complete all surveys will be eligible to participate in a drawing for total cash awards of $10,000.

All information the officers supply will be hosted on a secure server and kept completely confidential by investigators who have more than 25 years of experience conducting similar studies. In addition, the study is protected by federal statutes that mandate that such research data be kept confidential. Individual data collected will not be shared with employers or labor groups and all public reporting of results will be done in aggregate form that does not identify any individual officer.

Members of the Harvard Work Hours, Health, and Safety Group have extensive experience studying the impact of work hours on health, safety, and productivity. For the past 25 years, scientists on this team have implemented fatigue management programs in police departments, hospitals, and many diverse 24/7 operations, including NASA.

The information gathered in the nationwide Web-based survey may lead to important discoveries for improving the health and safety of police officers. Investigators hope all police officers will seriously consider participating in this very important endeavor.

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