November 7, 2019

NIOSH Urges Employers to Combat Driver Fatigue

A new page on the NIOSH website focuses on how to prevent driver fatigue on the job. According to the agency, driver fatigue can be caused by being awake for many consecutive hours, not getting enough sleep over multiple days, and monotonous tasks or long periods of inactivity. Time of day and health factors like sleep disorders or medications that cause drowsiness can also contribute to driver fatigue. Fatigued drivers may nod off or react more slowly to changing road conditions. They might also experience “microsleeps,” or brief sleep episodes that last from a fraction of a second up to 30 seconds. NIOSH notes that existing regulations intended to reduce driver fatigue address maximum numbers of driving and work hours for jobs like truck driving but warns that workers in most other jobs are not covered by these rules. The agency encourages employers to use a fatigue risk management system to help reduce the risks of driver fatigue. According to NIOSH, an FRMS can promote alertness among workers, identify tasks that are prone to fatigue, and lessen fatigue and its potential consequences.

Other actions employers can take to prevent driver fatigue on the job include implementing policies that set overtime limits and maximum allowable consecutive shifts; ensuring sufficient staffing levels across operations; and providing employee training on sleep health and fatigue management. Employers can also allow for rest breaks and napping during extended work shifts and establish a workplace sleep disorder screening and management program.

More information on driver fatigue is available on NIOSH’s website.