4 of the Most Devastating Historical Accidents Caused by Sleep Deprivation
January 30, 2015
Not getting enough sleep can cause us more trouble than we thought possible. In fact, several of the most catastrophic and horrible man-made disasters in our history happened just because some guys decided to skip out on their time with their bed foam! Let’s take a look at some of these tragic events.
On April 26, 1986, one of the reactors of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine exploded at 1:23 am, costing countless lives and destroying much of the environment. According to reports, the engineers on duty by the time of the incident have been working for more than 13 hours straight, which left them too exhausted to perform their tasks well. This factor may have partially contributed to the accident, alongside the fact that the facility has design deficiencies and poor operating instructions. One thing we’re sure of, though: the Chernobyl disaster is the worst nuclear power plant accident in history!
Though smaller in scale compared to the Chernobyl disaster, the Three Mile Island Accident in Pennsylvania is nevertheless one of the biggest man-made catastrophes the world has ever seen, and it’s still considered as the worst nuclear incident in the United States. Human error due to lack of sleep as well as various engineering problems were largely attributed to the incident, with the workers not noticing the plant losing coolant, which eventually resulted with the core overheating to the point of meltdown. And even with minimal consequences, it still took more than two decades and a whopping $1 billion before everything was straightened out.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill that took place in Alaska on March 24, 1989 is considered by many as one of the most devastating man-made environmental disasters. It resulted in over 258,000 barrels of spilled crude oil as well as irreparable damage to wildlife and its habitat. The National Transportation Safety Board reported that the mate at the helm of the ship was “severely sleep deprived and apparently asleep on his feet,” leaving him too exhausted to perform his duties well. The money used to clean up the mess amounted to over $3 billion.
On January 28, 1986, the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger exploded before millions of watching people worldwide, resulting in the deaths of all its crew members as well as a 32-year hiatus in the space shuttle program in the US. The disaster was mainly attributed to the disintegration of the right solid rocket booster’s O-ring seal, which caused a breach in the SRB joint and allowed burning pressurized gas to enter the rocket’s fuel tank. Investigators later found out that last-minute evaluations were done on the O-ring, undertaken by sleep-deprived NASA managers (It’s implied that at least three of them have slept only 3 hours!).
How sad to know that these great disasters could’ve been prevented if the people involved had better sleep! Imagine how many lives would have been spared! Still, what’s done is done, and all we can do to prevent future catastrophes like this is to make sure we spend a good amount of time catching Zzz’s.