Generally speaking, the less sleep you get, the more likely you are to have an injury at work. According to the US National Health Interview Survey, when people get less than seven hours of sleep, injury incidence increases with each hour less.
- For workers who sleep 7 to 8 hours a night, annual injury incidence is 2.27 percent
- For workers who sleep 6 to 7 hours a night, annual injury incidence is 3.62 percent
- For workers who sleep 5 to 6 hours a night, annual injury incidence is 5.21 percent
- For workers who sleep less than 5 hours a night, annual injury incidence is 7.89 percent
Proper sleep is essential to all workers, especially those who operate heavy machinery, including cars and large trucks. In some cases, when an employee is driving while on the clock for work, an employer’s negligence may be to blame for work car accidents. Here are some things to be aware of.
Drowsy driving is a serious threat to motorists. A 2018 study by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found drowsy driving is a factor in nearly 10 percent of serious car crashes resulting in injuries, airbag deployment or significant property damage. While the federal government reports up to 2 percent of all accidents occur because of drowsy driving, this recent study indicates the number is likely much higher.
When people drive while drowsy, the following risks occur:
- Drivers become less attentive
- Reaction time slows
- Drivers are less likely to make safe driving decisions
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports most adults need at least seven hours of sleep a day to stay safe. However, in some work situations, employers may negatively impact sleep time, putting their employees and others on the road in danger.
Any time an employee takes the wheel, there’s a risk that they’re doing so while drowsy, whether because of a personal decision or because of employer instructions. A 2017 study published in the medical journal Sleep reports work factors that influence drowsy driving incidence include:
- Working long and irregular hours
- Working multiple jobs
- Working night hours
The study reports factors like these are especially prevalent in the medical community. Extended work shifts increase crash risk by 9.1 percent, the study finds. Long shifts, which last more than 12.5 hours, increase drowsy driving incidence by double frequency. Nurses who only work night shifts are more likely to experience drowsy driving. The study reports any employee who experiences similar work situations may also be at risk for drowsy driving, not just those in the medical field.
The study also found drivers who drive through monotonous locales or drive on lengthy routes are particularly susceptible to drowsy driving dangers. These are the types of schedules and routes truck drivers typically encounter.
Safety + Health magazine reports workers in the oil and gas industries also face drowsy driving risks, since these types of workers often make lengthy trips between work sites and work extended shifts.
How Employer Negligence Contributes to Drowsy Driving
In any work situation, the employer is responsible for creating a safe working environment and keeping employees protected from harm. This relates to driving while on the job, too.
Proper precautions to keep employees who drive while on the clock safe include:
Self-Regulation for Fatigue
Employers should train employees on the warning signs of fatigued driving, which include yawning, frequent blinking, short-term memory loss or neglecting road cues, drifting, and hitting guard rails. If an employee is tired while driving, they should be empowered to stop the vehicle in a safe place and rest.
Employers should mandate frequent breaks when employees are driving for long stretches of time.
Only Mandate Driving When Necessary
If an employer can facilitate transportation for an employee where they are not driving, such as a flight or public transportation, the employer should do so.
These types of driving policies should apply to any worker who has to drive, not just truckers. For example, if an employee has been in an out-of-state business meeting all day and then is forced to drive an hour to an airport to catch a red-eye flight, the employer is putting that employee in danger of fatigued driving. An accident could occur on the way to the airport that was caused by employer negligence.
Employers can stay protected by creating thorough driving policies for employees that include guidelines for fatigued driving.
If an employee does experience a serious car accident, and fatigue due to employer negligence is a factor, the employee should contact a Birmingham car accident attorney. Legal action may be the right path to choose in order to not only secure just compensation, but also to help ensure other employees are protected and are not pressured to drive while fatigued.