17 Mar 2022

Staying alert to rail risks

More work is needed on understanding and addressing a lack of sleep in rail workers, a new study has argued. Researchers looked at the difference between when staff were on day shifts and when they were working at night.

They discovered a “feast and famine” scenario where 41% reported getting six hours of sleep or less when working days, compared to 63% when working nights. The findings, published in the Applied Ergonomics journal, suggested that many staff weren’t getting enough sleep and having less than six hours was linked to feeling very sleepy during the day.

More than one in ten shift workers also reported they had been awake for between 18 and 24 hours by the time they finished work at least once during the past week. This led to fears that their tiredness could have an impact on road safety if they were driving home from work.

The report said: “Sleep restriction and sleep deprivation, even in the short term, are known to affect cognitive performance. For a safety critical industry, this data should raise a significant concern.”

It added: “To prevent the consequences of insufficient sleep or prolonged wakefulness from affecting safety, both on the railway and during staff commutes, the rail industry recognises a need to better educate staff on fatigue and sleep. As a result, guidance on fitness for duty checking regimes is being created, so that organisations can review their processes against good practice.”

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