There is a large literature on the effects of caffeine on performance. Most of the studies have been conducted in the laboratory and further information is required on the effects of caffeine consumption on performance and safety at work.
The present studies aimed to determine whether the level of caffeine consumption influenced changes in alertness and performance over the working day. Secondary analyses of a large epidemiological database were also conducted to examine associations between caffeine consumption and cognitive failures and accidents at work.
In the first study 110 volunteers, all of whom were regular caffeine consumers, rated their alertness and carried out a simple reaction time task before and after work on a Monday and Friday. Caffeine consumption during the day was recorded and volunteers were sub-divided into low and high consumers on the basis of a median split (220 mg/day). The second study involved secondary analyses of a database formed by combining the Bristol Stress and Health at Work and Cardiff Health and Safety at Work studies. In the first analyses associations between caffeine consumption and frequency of cognitive failures were examined in a sample of 1253 white-collar workers. The second set of analyses examined associations between caffeine consumption and accidents at work in a sample of 1555 workers who were especially at risk of having an accident.
The results from the first study showed that those who consumed higher levels of caffeine reported significantly greater increases in alertness over the working day and a significantly smaller slowing of reaction time. The results from the second study demonstrated significant associations between caffeine consumption and fewer cognitive failures and accidents at work. After controlling for possible confounding factors it was found that higher caffeine consumption was associated with about half the risk of frequent/very frequent cognitive failures and a similar reduction in risk for accidents at work.
Overall, the results from the three analyses show that caffeine consumption may have benefits for performance and safety at work.