QLD: regulator warns on workplace fatigue-related crashes

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Friday, 22 July, 2022 - 13:45
Industry news

Fatigue is four times more likely to contribute to driver impairment than drugs or alcohol, according to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, which said organisations need to take a number of steps to reduce workplace fatigue-related crashes.

Workplace fatigue refers to mental or physical exhaustion that reduces the ability to perform work effectively and safely.

Each year, fatigue-related crashes are responsible for around 31 lives and 462 serious injuries on Queensland roads.

“While there’s no doubt long-distance travel is clearly impacted by fatigue, over half of fatigue-related crashes occur within 25 kilometres of the departure point,” the regulator said.

“If your workers are required to drive, fatigue is a key road safety and work safety consideration – and the risks must be managed.”

Work-related driving has increased in recent years, especially when it comes to small and medium size vehicles used for online deliveries.

“Organisations should ensure work schedules are reviewed, driving requirements are considered, and journey plans which incorporate driving times and breaks are agreed and written up,” the regulator said.

“Being awake for 17 hours is the same as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 – the legal limit over which you would receive a penalty.

“A fatigued driver will have reduced reaction times, impaired decision making and make riskier choices.”

Loss of attention and focus (drifting over lanes or changing speed without intention) are signs of fatigue, as are the more obvious signs like yawning and heavy eyes.

“If you’ve ever been sitting down and suddenly felt your head snap back as it unintentionally dropped down, this is called a microsleep,” the regulator said.

The only way to prevent fatigue is sleep, and caffeine, fresh air and loud music are only temporary masks and do not address fatigue.

Instead, it is important to get a good night’s sleep to allow your body to recharge; be aware of the effects medication can have on your body and mind; and avoid long drives after a day’s work and plan rest stops in advance.

“If you start to feel fatigued while driving, pull over somewhere safe like a driver reviver or rest area,” the regulator said.

“It is recommended you rest for at least 15 minutes every two hours of driving and never drive more than 10 hours in a day. If possible, share driving with someone else who is well-rested.”