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Take 5 for Safety: Driver fatigue on the job

June 14, 2023

Take 5 for Safety is a monthly article designed to give equipment and event rental stores the information they need to conduct a five-minute safety meeting on a particular topic. Below are talking points for this month’s meeting. Click hereto download the Take 5 for Safety signup sheet. This can be used to take attendance during the meeting.  


Lack of or poor-quality sleep, long work hours, stress and sleep disorders are just a few reasons a person may suffer from fatigue. In the workplace, driver fatigue is a major safety risk that can lead to injury of the driver and others.  

The facts: 

  • As many as one in five fatal crashes in the general population involve driver fatigue. 
  • After 17 consecutive hours awake, impairment is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05. After 24 hours awake, impairment is equivalent to a BAC of .10. 
  • A survey of the U.S. workforce found that 37 percent of workers got less than the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep. 
  • Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each day. 

The causes of driver fatigue: 

  • Being awake for many consecutive hours. 
  • Not getting enough sleep over multiple days. 
  • Time of day: Your body has a sleep/wake cycle that tells you when to be alert and when it’s time to sleep. The urge to sleep is the most intense in the early morning hours. 
  • Monotonous tasks or long periods of inactivity. 
  • Health factors such as sleep disorders or medications that cause drowsiness. 

Fatigue can cause drivers to: 

  • Nod off. 
  • React more slowly to changing road conditions, other drivers or pedestrians. 
  • Make poor decisions. 
  • Drift from their lane. 
  • Experience “tunnel vision” when a driver loses sense of what’s going on in the periphery. 
  • Experience “microsleeps” brief sleep episodes lasting from a fraction of a second up to 30 seconds. 
  • Forget the last few miles they drove. 

How employees can prevent driver fatigue on the job: 

  • Plan off-duty activities to allow enough time for adequate sleep. 
  • Get enough sleep seven to nine hours each day. If fatigue persists after adequate sleep, get screened for health problems that may be affecting sleep, such as sleep apnea. 
  • Create a sleeping environment that helps you sleep well: a dark, quiet, cool room with no electronics. 
  • If you feel fatigued while driving: pull over, drink a cup of coffee and take a 15-to-30 minute nap before continuing. The effects are only temporary the only “cure” for fatigue is sleep. 
  • Watch yourself and your peers for fatigue-related symptoms. 
  • Report instances of fatigue in yourself and others to your direct supervisor, who can help to determine the safest course of action. 
  • Speak honestly if questioned about a fatigue-related incident. Fatigue is a normal biological response it is not a reflection of how well you do your job. 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention