Motor vehicle crashes cause over 40% of work-related deaths in the oil and gas extraction industry. Driver fatigue, which may be a result of insufficient sleep, long distances traveled to well sites, and long work shifts is a factor in some of these crashes.
In addition to the loss of life, the average on-the-job fatal crash is estimated to cost employers $671,000. Legal settlements can be even more costly.
Oil and gas employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees.
According to a NIOSH fact sheet, the following factors put workers at risk for fatigued driving:
- Time of day – Natural body clocks (circadian rhythms) give strong signals that it’s time to sleep at night and early morning hours. Many people also experience a dip in alertness in the afternoon;
- Length of time awake – The more hours awake, the more likely people are to be fatigued. Fatigue can impair driving and other tasks, similar to alcohol impairment. Small sleep deficits accumulated over time can also result in impairment;
- Monotonous tasks – Driving for extended periods of time with few changes in routine can increase workers’ risk of fatigued or inattentive driving; and
- Medications and health conditions – Illnesses, diseases, and some medications may interfere with workers’ alertness, increasing the risk of fatigued driving.
The fact sheet recommends, among others, the following:
- Implement a fatigue management policy and program, and integrate it into your existing health and safety management system;
- Limit the number of hours employees may work and drive per day or trip segment; and
- Provide a rested driver to transport workers from remote sites after extended shifts.