Regulations have been loosened to assist truck drivers working to meet supply demands across the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors, nurses and first-responders are on the front lines responding to calls and treating patients.
Farm workers, grocery clerks, teachers and many others have had to adjust to a new normal during this unprecedented health crisis, which in some cases means meeting the needs of clients in virtual settings. The internet has slowed – or crashed – because so many are using streaming services to watch movies while holed up in their homes.
The world is different today than it was yesterday. We are coming to grips with terms such as “social distancing” and beginning to grasp practices like remote learning. Yet, I would like to remind you there is one constant: Safety doesn’t sleep.
People are anxious. Workers are stressed. These feelings can lead to distraction and fatigue. That is why it is more important now than ever that we work together to keep each other safe. I am heartened to know rest areas on many highways remain open so truck drivers can pull over to take breaks.
More than 4 in 10 workers are sleep-deprived, and those most at risk of encountering fatigue-related issues work the night shift, long shifts or irregular shifts. Research shows:
- You are three times more likely to be in a crash if you are fatigued
- Losing even two hours of sleep is similar to the effect of having three beers
- Being awake for more than 20 hours is the equivalent of being legally drunk
During a free webinar on April 9, I will work with National Safety Council Program Manager Cindy Leonard to highlight the potential safety impact of fatigue-impairment on your workplace. Register to attend: Running on Empty: Understanding Fatigue as Impairment in the Workplace.
Drivers who are on the road every day can take simple steps to avoid distraction. Before departing:
- Set your GPS device
- Silence your phone
- Pick a radio station or music playlist
Know this: Hands-free phone use while behind the wheel is not risk-free. Sending a text via a voice command system can cause your mind to drift. A moment of cognitive distraction can lead to a lifetime of heartache. In a free webinar we are hosting on April 7, Brian Fielkow and Jorge Chavez will showcase hands-on tools that operations and safety leaders can deploy now to ensure safe outcomes in the coronavirus era.
Fielkow is CEO of Houston-based Jetco Delivery and executive vice president of Montreal-based The GTI Group. Chavez is a professional driver and road team captain with the American Trucking Association. Register to attend: Transportation Safety: Your Playbook During the COVID-19 Era.
Because in-person trainings are impractical right now, we have pivoted to online offerings. Make plans to join us on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the month of April for a series of traffic safety webinars. In these times, safety is not just about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen – and doing so in ways that are perhaps a tad uncomfortable or to a degree unconventional.
No matter. Safety still comes first.
– Lisa Robinson is a senior program manager with the National Safety Council