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Drowsy Driving? An Accident Waiting to Happen

Nov 17, 2020 9:04:08 AM / by DEKRA OSR Communications posted in Prevention, Serious Injury and Fatality, safety, organizational safety, DEKRA, workplace injuries, Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, Workplace safety


After attending a workshop taught by DEKRA’s VP and expert on Brain-Centric Reliability, David Musgrave, I learned that a microsleep episode is a common occurrence when a person does not get enough restful sleep and their brain shuts down momentarily in attempt to recharge itself. Fatigue (including Microsleeps) is one of 12 precursors to human error and many times, serious injury and fatality. A Microsleep caused my best friend to crash her car into a truck. 

A Microsleep is defined as an uncontrollable, brief episode of sleep lasting anywhere from a single fraction of a second up to 10-15 seconds.  You’re exhausted and despite your best efforts to stay awake, your brain shuts off with your eyes still open. That’s what happened in the case of my friend.  The driver of the truck she collided with said, “I can’t believe you kept coming!  I was blowing my horn and you were looking right at me, but it was if you didn’t see me!” 

During a microsleep episode, your brain doesn’t respond to noise or other sensory inputs, therefore you won’t react in time to prevent an incident.  My friend wasn’t on the phone, she wasn’t distracted, but her brain had dropped momentarily into deep/Delta wave asleep!  With less than five hours of sleep for several nights in a row, her brain was taking a much-needed nap as she sat behind the wheel of a car. Talk about a wake-up call!

Listening to my friend recount the incident, my mind immediately flashed back to a video in David’s workshop showing a public transportation driver plowing into a car ahead of the driver on an interstate with eyes wide open. The video was intended to “drive” home the fact that sleep is a basic biological necessity, and when we force ourselves to go without it for too long, the brain will eventually shut down —even if just for a few seconds.

Unfortunately, you can’t control when or where it happens. In four or five seconds, traveling 55 miles per hour, you can travel more than 100 yards (the length of a football field) while asleep1.

Drowsy driving, a related occurrence, contributes to more crashes than the federal government had initially estimated, according to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety2. The report released in February 2018 analyzed dash-cam video from more than 700 crashes and linked nearly 1 in 10 to drowsiness. Federal estimates indicate drowsiness is a factor in about 1 to 2 percent of crashes.

Sleepiness can result in crashes at any time of the day or night, but three factors are most commonly associated with drowsy-driving crashes.

  1. They occur most frequently between midnight and 6 a.m., or in the late afternoon.
  2. They often involve a single driver running off the road at a high rate of speed with no evidence of braking.
  3. They frequently occur on rural roads and highways.

Error risk with less-than-adequate Sleep

Research shows the relative error risk is 240% greater with 5 ½ -6 hours of sleep and 490% greater with less than 5 ½ hours of sleep averaged over 7 days3. Not only does lack of sleep affect driving, but it also affects work safety. Imagine the injury possibilities if a worker had a microsleep episode at height or using a power tool.

So, what can you do to prevent a microsleep episode?

Driving Alert Means…

  1. Getting adequate sleep (7-9 hours for an adult, and 8-10 hours for teens4) daily is the only true way to protect yourself against the risks of driving when you’re drowsy. 
  2. Getting a good night’s sleep before the start of a long road trip.
  3. Avoiding even the smallest amounts of alcohol consumption before driving. Consumption of any alcohol interacts with sleepiness to increase drowsiness and impairment.
  4. Checking your prescription and over-the-counter medication labels to see if drowsiness could result from their use.
  5. Avoiding driving during the peak sleepiness periods (midnight – 6 a.m. and late afternoon). If you must drive, stay vigilant for signs of drowsiness, such as crossing over roadway lines or hitting a rumble strip.

Warning Signs of Microsleep

Consider the following warning signs of a potential microsleep episode:

  • You feel sleepy and have trouble keeping your eyes open;
  • You have difficulty focusing on where you are going or what you are doing;
  • You yawn a lot, and
  • Your thoughts wander.

If you notice the warning signs of microsleep while driving, pull over and rest for a few minutes. If at work, speak to your supervisor to plan work activities with lower exposure given your cognitive fatigue state. Take advantage of your company’s fatigue risk mitigation policy and procedures including individual fatigue assessment to determine your level of impairment. Lastly, listen to your body and get adequate sleep before beginning the next day’s activities – your brain will thank you as will other drivers on the road and colleagues at work!

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Rewarding Workers for Safety – the Right Way

Nov 17, 2020 8:52:11 AM / by DEKRA OSR Communications posted in Serious Injury and Fatality, safety, organizational safety, DEKRA, workplace injuries, Workplace safety


Have you ever noticed a sign posted in a workplace stating, “this department has gone 365 days without an on-the-job injury” Would you assume that this is a really safe company? Or do you think there’s a catch behind the claim? Are they safe because they are doing the right things to prevent injury or are they lucky?

How does a reward system play into safety? Many organizations have a “pay for performance” system built into departmental or individual safety goals. Everyone likes to be recognized, and if there’s a little gift or monetary incentive along with that recognition, even better! But is a tangible reward the best way to incentivize employees to follow safety procedures? Not really.

According to Paul Angelo, Principal Consultant at DEKRA, rewarding workers for attaining zero injuries in a department during a specific time period can lead to under-reporting incidents just to get the reward.

If you think of recognition as an acknowledgement that you’ve worked safely, that can be justified and promoted within the organization. But when the recognition or reward becomes tangible or financial, the negative factor of underreporting comes into play. People do work hard for recognition - if you think of scouting, sports, even the military, the reward is a badge, ribbon, or other commemorative token that acknowledges accomplishment. Pride in an accomplishment is a reward, too.

However, cash rewards can have a detrimental effect on a safety incentive program. This type of reward incentivizes the outcome and can lead to underreporting of injuries. It can also result in a lack of knowledge about the injury causation factor if it is not reported. If an injury was reported, an investigation into the root cause of the injury would be launched and could prevent future instances from occurring. When the injury is “hidden” or not reported, there can be no investigation into the scenario that caused the accident, therefore allowing the possibility of it happening again.

Paul Angelo also states “Expressing progress in safety by a lessening injury rate is common in industry, but what we really want to do is shift the focus to preventing injuries in the first place. You really want to reward actions that reduce the possibility of getting hurt, not just rewarding not getting hurt.”

DEKRA Organizational Safety & Reliability has used this iceberg graphic to illustrate the concept – the peak of the iceberg is the injury rate and the larger bottom is the exposure to injury. Are they really reducing exposure? How do we reward actions that reduce the vulnerability of getting hurt? Ideally, organizations should reward worker actions that reduce exposure, not just reducing injury. Luck is a factor in this equation as well. In the prior example of so many days worked without injury – how can you determine if it was due to safe worker actions or luck?

As an example, if a child ran across the street with his eyes closed and didn’t get hurt, you wouldn’t want to reward that behavior. If the child looks both ways and follows the instruction of the crossing guard, you would want to reward that behavior. You don’t want to overemphasize the outcome (both children crossed safely); you do want to reduce the likelihood of getting hurt by rewarding actions that lead to appropriate behavior (looking both ways and following instructions).

Safety incentives should ideally be linked to actions taken to protect workers, reducing exposure and changing unsafe behaviors. These metrics can be more difficult to compile as compared with injury rates. But an absence of injury doesn’t mean you are safe – you could just be lucky.

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Understand Your Exposure: Classifying Serious Injury and Fatality Potential in the Utility Industry

Nov 3, 2020 9:27:04 AM / by Kathy Culig, PhD, Principal Consultant & James Grant, VP- Utilities Leader posted in Serious Injury and Fatality, safety, organizational safety, DEKRA, workplace injuries, Crisis, Utilities, Workplace safety


Imagine that a team of utility workers is using a personnel lift to replace a large, heavy transformer. While taking down the old transformer, a rusted fastener breaks and the transformer falls, striking the ground. The good news is that since the team recognized the risk of falling objects, they set up a huge safety zone on the ground to keep people away from the work area. They also wore their personal protective equipment (PPE) and tied themselves off to prevent falling. Because of the preventive measures that the team took, no one is hurt.

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