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Drowsy Driving is Nothing to Yawn About

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Did you know around 40% of deaths in the workplace occur in transportation incidents making motor vehicle accidents overwhelmingly the leading cause of workplace deaths? Millions of workers drive or ride in a vehicle as part of their jobs, and all workers are at a risk of crashes, whether they drive light or heavy vehicles, or whether driving is their main duty or incidental job duty. From 2003-2018, more than 29,000 workers in the United Stated died in a work-related motor vehicle crash.

With so many people behind the wheel, drowsy driving, or driving while you are tired, only exacerbates this situation. It is estimated 6% of all crashes and 21% of all fatal crashes involve a fatigued driver. The first week in November is considered Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, but it’s something we all need to be preventing every single day we are on the road.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the following factors contribute to drowsy driving:
• Driving on less than 7 hours of sleep
• Driving at a time when usually sleeping
• Travelling frequently through different time zones
• Having an untreated sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea
• Working multiple shifts or night shifts

Drowsy driving is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol. The driver’s reaction times, awareness of hazards and the ability to keep attention worsens when the driver is fatigued. Driving while going more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08%, which is the U.S. legal limit. If you drive while fatigued, you are 3x more likely to be in a car crash.

Employers can take steps to help keep their employees safe by implementing strong safety and health programs, including setting up a fatigue risk management system (FRMS). The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has relevant information listing ways employers and employees can prevent driver fatigue. Take the steps today to keep your employees safe and healthy.

Mr. Griffith has a received his bachelors degree in Environmental Health from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and president of Workplace Safety & Health Company. He has over 35 years of industrial hygiene, safety, loss control and consulting experience. Chemical monitoring, noise measurement, program development and management, risk assessment and computer management of health and safety data are areas of particular strength. Mr. Griffith is a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) at the local and national level. He is also active in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

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