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January 20, 2021

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Driver fatigue

Driver fatigue Q&A

Following our recent webinar on driver safety – Understanding & influencing drivers’ attitudes & behaviour to reduce risk – part of the SHP Webinar Wednesdays series, we put your unanswered fatigue questions to sleep expert Marcus de Guingand.

If you missed the webinar itself, featuring Tony Greenidge, CEO of IAM RoadSmart, Dr Karen McDonnell CFIOSH, OHS Policy Adviser at RoSPA, Hazel McGuinness, Safety Health & Environment Advisor at Royal Mail Group Safety, Health and Environment and Marcus de Guingand, Managing Director at Third Pillar of Health Ltd, you can listen back on demand here.

The session covered:

  • How to assess your drivers’ attitudes and influence their behaviour;
  • How to effectively use driver risk profiling;
  • Impact of COVID-19 on driver attitudes and behaviour, including after long periods without driving;
  • Managing risks related to drink, drugs and fatigue;
  • Understanding the cause of accidents;
  • Managing accidents and the aftermath when they do happen.

 

Do you agree that some behaviours of the Driver could be due to fatigue and mental concerns, what measures could be put in place to address this without risking stigmatisation or union anger?

Marcus de GuingandMarcus de Guingand (MdG): “Yes. Fatigue is a major influence of driver behaviour. For instance, we know form several studies that our tolerance to risk increases when we are tired. We need to adopt a “fair culture” when it comes to fatigue. Managers need the tools to help them start informal conversations with drivers on fatigue. Then it should move to more formal conversations.

“I would also like to see sleep disorder screening run in conjunction with Occupational Health. Given up to 85% of sleep disorders are undiagnosed this could be revolutionary for the industry. Someone who receives a diagnosis and is put on the best treatment pathway will see life changing results. They will be better at work and will have so much more energy to make a contribution in life outside of work too. Relationships will also improve. The Unions understand this, from conversations I have had and generally appreciate this is helpful to all stakeholders.”

What are your thoughts on companies that schedule/expect drivers to work long hours on a regular basis (12/15 hrs per day) and feel this is safe because the driver is within his/her driving hours regulations and the rest of hours the driver is available for work? Nevertheless, the driver is driving a seriously dangerous item of equipment (HGV) on their 14th hour at work.

(MdG): “Hours of work are good in that they prevent employers and in some cases employees from damaging themselves. But HoS CANNOT be relied upon from the perspective of fatigue management. They assume workers turn up to work well-rested, which is often not going to be the case. Young children, undiagnosed sleep disorders or even an occasional poor night of sleep can all impact us. Simple sleep science will show that regularly working long hours increases the risk of accidents. This is also the case in our findings when sleep duration falls.”

How to companies manage fatigue without having AI technology to identify fatigued drivers?

(MdG): “I always starting with an assessment of drivers. At that point you have a baseline. You also know the extent, impact and causes of tiredness and fatigue. This gives you a much better chance to produce a roadmap of next steps.

“Technology can help prevent an accident – for which I am in favour. But we are better off not getting to the point where the technology is needed. Education is another great place to start. Most of the countermeasure’s drivers use to prevent fatigue have been shown to be ineffective.

“We cannot have people driving when they are showing signs of fatigue. You don’t need AI to spot the signs that you’re about to be at extremely high risk. But you do need to know the signs. Initiatives like sleep disorder screening can be very beneficial to all stakeholders and I would advocate this too.”

What tips do you have for everyday medications when talking drugs?

(MdG): “Medication that causes drowsiness is not often considered when discussing driver fatigue. I would advocate that drivers report the drugs they are using to Occupational Health, in a confidential manner, so they can be checked for drowsiness.”

Why do you think construction sites are not using local contractors, why is it construction workers are often taken on from long distances away?

(MdG): “I agree. I see it lots in construction. Colleagues crossing on trains and motorways going to different tasks. In reality there is a fair amount of specialisation in construction and often the skills are in short supply. However, this is not always the case. There needs to be better internal communication where skills can be transferred.

“It also seems to be an industry culture. You drive two hours there, do a full day’s work and drive two hours back. Even in companies that have overnight policies they aren’t used – even by managers, which sets a bad example. We need to see cultural change in construction.”

How can we ensure fatigue is taken more seriously – how do we get senior management to ‘invest’ in tackling this?

(MdG): “It is costing your business dearly, but you don’t know it. You should be able to prove absenteeism, tasks completed without having to be redone, improved alertness, fewer accidents and incidents. Even if you just look at the times of day where our circadian rhythm ebbs (02:00 to 07:00 and 14:00 to 16:00) then you can pin improvements on your fatigue management initiatives versus all the work you are doing to improve key metrics.”

Are fleets open to using AI technology now to monitor driver fatigue, mobile phone use, distraction, driving to close to vehicles in front, lane departure?

(MdG): “No, certainly in my experience of fatigue and technology there is significant opposition as technology is regarded as intrusive.

At what point does it become the employee’s responsibility to manage their own wellbeing and get enough sleep?

(MdG): “Employees have a duty of care to report to work well-rested. However, there may be a number of reasons why they don’t. They still need to work and to earn a living. If you can address your culture and the individual is not punished – financially or through a disciplinary you are likely to see long term improvements.

“Assisting the individual, including managers and occupational health and getting to the bottom of problems for those reporting fatigue more commonly would yield long term savings. You will also hopefully see a significant improvement in retention, which is key when good employees and drivers are not always easy to come by.”

Training is the easiest but certainly not the cheapest and best mitigation.  What would be a better option to improve behaviour given that technology is improving?

(MdG): “You need to start by understanding the extent, impact and causes of the problem (in relation to fatigue). Training can be more targeted and can be done in an inexpensive format.”

How do organisations manage fatigue after training? how do they know who is fatigued?

(MdG): “It’s always good to monitor key metrics before and after training to see if there have been improvements. There are other initiatives you can undertake, which also keep fatigue at the forefront of the mind. Induction and refresher training is also very valuable.”

How do you deal with fatigue based on current economic conditions?

(MdG): “As I’ve mentioned already having a fair culture will help you to find out these issues. If you don’t know about them you cannot help mitigate them. You could go down the route of pre-work sign-on, including subjective questions and objective alertness tests. It is something I am designing for a pilot project at the moment. If you know an employee is going to reach a high or extreme level of fatigue during their shift you can run interventions before then to help reduce the fatigue risk.”

Do you think that more training can be done for parcel delivery businesses?

(MdG): “I would think so. I did a piece with the FTA Van Excellence last year based on these delivery drivers as ‘corporate athletes’. They are likely to be getting enough exercise to help them sleep well. We just need to help them understand just how important sleep is to all aspects of their health (mental and physical) and driver safety. They should understand that it needs to be prioritised.

“Other factors in some van drivers, such as poor nutrition, caffeine use, alcohol as a sleep aid and poor hydration can also feed through to the ability to obtain sufficient good quality sleep.”

Do mixed shift patterns have an impact on driver fatigue?

(MdG): “Any type of shift working impact on fatigue. We found that from the research we did for our recent whitepaper. We are not designed to work shifts and we know that shift work leads to insufficient and poor-quality sleep. It is something to be very aware of. I am happy to discuss in more detail.”

Sleep and Fatigue: Director’s Briefing

Fatigue is common amongst the population, but particularly among those working abnormal hours, and can arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.

This free director’s briefing contains:

  • Key points;
  • Recommendations for employers;
  • Case law;
  • Legal duties.
Barbour EHS

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Nigel Dupree
Nigel Dupree
4 months ago

Fatigue Science has been developing over many years from studying Pilots to the Military discovering that Fatigue is more “debilitating cognitively” or functionally than even minimum consumption of alcohol within the Drink Driving limits used to measure the scale of impairment or competence of anyone to operate equipment.

Karl Spencer
Karl Spencer
4 months ago

Some very nice points: When designing our fatigue management tool, we ensured we included data metrics and real-live timings of journeys and distances to ensure managers and occupational health can instantly review and make accurate decisions before its too late.
It is also important to correlate the vital information and support provided with other health and safety areas.