“Who here has ever experienced a micro sleep while driving?”

In every one of the approximately 250 Fatigue workshops I’ve run in the last 4 years I have asked this same question. No matter the make up of the audience, whether they are blue or white collar, almost always around 60% of people in the room say ‘YES’.

It is frightening to think today while you drive of the number of potential micro sleeps that maybe occurring on our roads and in our workplaces Micro sleeps are times when our brains are simply over riding our will power and making poor decisions for us.

In a recent article titled “Sleep Deprivation, Fatigue and Effects on Performance –The Science and Its Implications for Doctors” compiled by the University of Pennsylvania, researchers noted that fatigue had considerable impacts on a person’s ability to perform the follow the tasks:

  • AlertnessTired woman
  • Vigilance
  • Cognitive function
  • Memory
  • Awareness
  • Mood

Looking at the above list highlights what many of us have experienced and maybe questioned.  That is, the direct impact of fatigue on the brain and how these impacts are directly affecting our ability to be safe and productive in the workplace.

As a workplace how can we adequately be managing this risk to safety and productivity?

  1. Policy, procedure and process – use the readily available experts and corresponding evidence to ensure your systems are “fatigue friendly”. This includes schedule, rosters, hours or work, recovery periods etc
  2. Buy in – Build an awareness of the safety and productivity concerns with education and garnish the support of the following groups of people, within your workplace:
      • Leaders – from the very top down
      • Influencers – who shapes behaviour but don’t have a title
      • The Majority – culture will be defined by having the majority onboard
  3. Behaviour – For fatigue to properly managed in any workplace effectively it will require the implementation of cultural strategies.
  • Personal responsibility – everyone should have a “Fatigue Management Plan”
  • Accountability – How do we look out for each other and “call” inappropriate fatigue behaviour?

Click here to listen to why Dr Russell Foster thinks why our brains need to sleep….

http://www.ted.com/talks/russell_foster_why_do_we_sleep.html