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October 2018 Safety Coach: Never Turn the Clock Back on Safety

Safety Coach
Set the Clock Back, Move Ahead on Fatigue Management

On Sunday, Nov. 4, most Americans will set their clocks back an hour. The annual ritual of saying goodbye to Daylight Saving Time is one that raises workplace safety and health questions.

Humans are programmed to be alert during the day and tired at night. Pushing the clock back means an extra hour of sleep – for one night. Then, as the days grow shorter, many will be driving to and from work in darkness.

For older drivers, this can be a problem. A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old, according to the American Optometric Association. At age 60, driving in the dark can become even more difficult.

Share safety tips from the National Safety Council in an email blast or via your company intranet:

  • Keep vehicle headlights clean and aimed correctly
  • Keep your eyes moving and out of the potentially blinding glare of oncoming lights
  • Slow down to account for limited visibility and to allow for adequate stopping time
  • Schedule an eye exam at least once a year

Read: Does Changing the Clock Mess With Your Health?

Darkness isn’t the only issue to tackle.

Both “springing head” in March and “falling back” in November can have an impact on circadian rhythm — physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. Disturbance of this cycle is a key risk factor for safety incidents and can cause health problems, such as diabetes and cardiovacular disease. Studies also link the act of “falling back” to depression, and losing that hour in March can lead to fatigue.

Fatigue also can be a result of poor sleep habits. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep to achieve peak performance, but research indicates 3 in 10 get less than six hours. Without adequate sleep, on-the-job performance suffers. Some use the term “presenteeism” to describe people present at work but not functioning at 100% because of fatigue.

Read: How Do Time Changes Impact Worker Fatigue and Safety?

On the road, a fatigued driver is an impaired driver, one who puts himself and others at risk. Last year in Texas, drivers who were fatigued or asleep at the wheel contributed to 9,704 crashes, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. That’s more than 26 crashes every day.

Did you know?

  • Losing two hours of sleep is similar to the effect of drinking three beers
  • Being awake for more than 20 hours is the equivalent of being legally drunk

To raise awareness, get the National Safety Council Fatigue Toolkit. The kit is stocked with infographics, fact sheets and posters. Read: Fatigue Survey Reports from NSC. Share: Time for All of Us to Wake Up to the Problem of Drowsy Driving.

Tailgate Talk
Open Your Eyes to Risks Posed by In-Vehicle Technologies

During your next Tailgate Talk, gather your employees in a tight semi-circle and ask them to close their eyes. Now, ask them to imagine driving to or from work in such a condition. Nobody does that, right?

Well, today’s in-vehicle technologies can cause drivers to lose sight of the road, according to findings in a report put out by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Because placing a call or programming a GPS system can require use of touch screens or voice commands, a driver’s attention can be diverted. For an instant – maybe longer – that driver might as well be traveling down the road with his or her eyes closed.

Distraction can be physical (eating, personal grooming, programming a navigation system) or cognitive (wrapping all of your attention in a call and not on the road). AAA evaluated infotainment systems in 40 2017 and 2018 vehicles. One finding: Programming navigation systems was the most distracting task, taking an average of 40 seconds for drivers to complete.

The takeaway: Always program your GPS before starting your trip.

In your conversation, turn the tables. Talk about examining your own driving habits. Many believe today’s in-vehicle technologies are safe because they are provided by the manufacturer.

Ask: How can you make an educated choice when you don’t know crucial safety information? Research indicates drivers using handheld and hands-free phones only see about 50% of all the information in their driving environment. Point out how many are fooled into a false sense of security by the “gee-whiz” feeling that comes from using the latest technology.

Last year, 19% of crashes on Texas roads involved distracted driving. Data from the Texas Department of Transportation tells us the “it’s not me” mentality is not working. In 100,687 distracted driving crashes, 444 people died and 2,889 suffered serious injuries.

Crashes cost employers money. Three ways to address distracted driving at your work: