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Study highlights how fatigue can jeopardize worker safety

Even though we tend to think of most jobs as being largely stationary, meaning workers essentially stay in the same place, this is far from the case. Every day, thousands of people across Illinois operate trucks and other heavy machinery that takes them from point A to point B.

Interestingly, a recently released study by researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reveals that those men and women who operate trucks or other delivery vehicles for a living will want to think long and hard about getting the wheel if they are feeling fatigued.

That's because they discovered that at least 20 percent of all car accidents and 16 percent of all near-miss car accidents here in the U.S. can be directly attributed to fatigue.

The researchers arrived at this conclusion by recruiting at least 100 motorists from the Washington D.C. area, and supplying them with automobiles equipped with sensors, cameras, lane-tracking software and other advanced technology that would help gather the most accurate readings. (While they recruited 100 drivers, they were also able to secure information from an additional 132 drivers consisting mostly of friends and family members who would borrow the car periodically.)

After reviewing hundreds of hours of footage, they were able to determine that 38 of the drivers were involved in either fatigue-related crashes or near-miss crashes caused by fatigue.

“Applying the findings to the population at-large, these results suggest that drivers are at a four times greater risk of a crash or near-crash if they choose to drive while fatigued,” said Tom Dingus, the director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

According to researchers, they were able to witness several symptoms exhibited by fatigued drivers just prior to a crash or a near-miss, including the steady closing of eyelids, bobbing of the head, loss of facial musculature, and even so-called micro-sleep in which a person's eyes close and rapidly jolt open.

This study should serve as a reminder to workers to keep themselves safe by always getting the necessary amount of rest and to avoid driving if they are feeling too fatigued. As shown by this study, this simple step may mean the difference between life and death.

Consider speaking with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to learn more about your rights and your options if you have suffered serious injuries in an industrial workers’ accident.

Source: EHS Today, “Wake up and drive: Fatigue causes 20 percent of crashes,” Laura Walter, June 5, 2013

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