Fatigue is one of the biggest killers on the road, and is routinely coupled in with speed and alcohol as the major cause of road accidents.
Fatigue is an incredibly difficult condition to manage, as it will affect every individual differently and there isn't a direct scale or measure that can be used to check a driver's condition. Common sense and ensuring staff are self-aware of their condition go a long way towards ensuring your staff are safe.
Around 20% of fatal road accidents involve driver fatigue and 30% of severe single vehicle crashes in rural areas involve the driver being fatigued.
Safe work Australia's, 2013 "Guide for Managing the Risk of Fatigue at work" outlines a range of issues and notes to look out for in regards to fatigue. Within it they outline ways to assist with controlling and managing the risk including:
- Managing shifts and hours to ensure workers have appropriate amounts of time to sleep in-between
- Scheduling safety critical work outside the low body clock periods of 2am and 6am, and between 2pm and 4pm.
- Avoiding work arrangements which provide incentives to work excessive hours
- Have access to on-call workers for unplanned leave and emergencies
- Policies that manage working hours including taking breaks on a regular basis
- Ensuring workers have adequate breaks to eat and re-hydrate.
They also outline some of the symptoms to be aware, and look out for when managing fatigue:
- Excessive yawning or falling asleep at work
- Short-term memory problems and an inability to concentrate
- Reduced hand-eye coordination or slow reflexes
- Blurred vision or impaired visual perception.
Again it is important that both staff and employer are aware of the signs, and take proactive measures to measure and minimise the risk of fatigue.
Safe work Australia's Guide states that "one sleepless night can have similar effects on someone as drinking too much alcohol". The danger of fatigue shouldn't be overlooked, with the effects of being awake for 17 hours being equivalent to the effect of a blood alcohol level of 0.05 and after 24 hours they are the equivalent of a BAC of 0.01 g/100ml (seven times more likely to have an accident).