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Whether you are behind the wheel, fueling, loading, unloading, or just climbing into or out ofyour truck, fatigue can affect your ability to perform any of these tasks safely. A split secondmental lapse can cause an accident which can injure or even kill you. Numerous studies havebeen done over the years to measure the effects of fatigue on safety and productivity. One ofthe most recent studies, conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, was aimed atunlocking the secrets to fatigue so that the hours-of-service regulations could be adjusted. While the new studies, research and technology have brought new ways of identifying anddealing with fatigue, there is no way to absolutely eliminate it. The best way to handle fatigue isby understanding the warning signs and knowing your own limitations. Know Your Biological Clock To be a safe driver you need to be aware of your biological clock and what your body is telling you. When are you most alert? When are you most likely to be drowsy? For many people it's the time shortly after lunch (2 p.m. to 5 p.m.) and the time shortly before sunrise (2 a.m. to 6 a.m.).
Get to know what times of day you are drowsier and/or less focused. Try to schedule a break ornap during these times. Understand how meals can affect your biological clock. For example,heavy meals will trigger drowsiness in most people as their body fires up to digest high caloriemeals. Eat smaller meals instead. Drink plenty of fluids but limit the intake of coffee orcaffeinated beverages. While it is often thought that caffeine will counteract fatigue, the effect isshort lived and the returning effects can be even more severe. Know the Warning Signs • Do you have trouble focusing your eyes or mind on the task at hand? • Does it seem to take extra effort or concentration to keep your head up, shift gears, change the radio station, or get in or out of your truck? • Do you have trouble remembering the last few miles, a conversation you had a few minutes ago, or where you are in a load count? • Have you missed your exit or are having trouble maintaining a steady speed? • Are you having trouble standing or sitting still? Know How to Minimize the Effects of Fatigue • Get plenty of sleep before you start a trip. This sounds easier than it is. Try to plan your trips to allow yourself time to get sleep. Days off at home are even harder. You will need to prioritize. • Get good nights of sleep before you head back out onto the road. There is no substitute for sleep. Be alert to the warning signs of fatigue and drowsiness, especially between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. If you feel drowsy, pull over and take a nap. • Schedule a break at least every two hours or 120 miles, but stop sooner if needed.
• Take a nap when you need to, but plan ahead. Napping alongside the road can be dangerousand is prohibited on interstate highways and many state routes as well. Find a safe place tostop such as a truck stop, rest area, intersecting highway or designated pull off. • Get fresh air. Keep a window opened slightly. During a break, take a walk, do a safety check orget some form of exercise before getting behind the wheel again. • If you start to feel drowsy, but have not yet made it to a safe parking area, talk to other driverson the CB. Roll down your window. Find some music you can sing along with. Stop at the next safe parking place and take a nap. If you are part of a team operation, pull overand notify your co-driver. Remember that your co-driver needs his or her rest as well. Beconsiderate. Avoid hard braking, sudden lane changes, excessive volume from the stereo or CB,and other activities that would interrupt your co-driver’s sleep. Drive like you have your familywith you. If you are both too tired to proceed, park the truck and get some rest. Know When to Get Help In recent years, it has been discovered that a surprising number of people have a physical or medical condition that affects their ability to get adequate sleep. If you have any of the following symptoms, you may need to consult your physician for further testing: • Do you get eight hours or more nightly, but wake up feeling tired? • Do you have trouble getting to sleep or wake up frequently while sleeping? • Do you wake up choking or gasping for breath? • Do you nap often or nap at inappropriate times (movies, concerts, meetings)? The best defense against the effects of fatigue is you. Plan rest and down time into your trips. Heed the warning signs your body is giving you. Resources
WCF Safety Department385.351.8103800.446.2667 ext. 8103
NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes or standards.
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