Doctors, Pilots, Truck Drivers all require skill and precision to perform at their highest quality. Yet, many of these professionals end up overworked due to the demand of their careers. Being tired and having to perform one of these high performance types of jobs is not a combination that anyone wants--- and could results in catastrophic injuries, or worse.
Even though the medical and transportation industries are attempting to curve the fatigue factor, there are still many questions that remain.
Driver fatigue accounts for 30-40% of all trucking accidents in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. To combat the problem, the U.S. Department of Transportation has reduced the number of hours a driver can work in a week by a total of 12 hours. It also requires drivers to take a half hour break after working 8 consecutive hours. These new regulations are mandatory for all by July 2013.
Truck drivers are not the only ones who suffer fatigue while on the job. Nearly 23 percent of pilots surveyed have admitted to making at least one error/week while on the job, due to fatigue. There have been catastrophic injuries and deaths in the airline world directly related to pilot fatigue. In response to these issues, the Federal Aviation Administration has required all pilots to work shorter shifts and to also get more rest in between shifts.
Doctors are the most commonly associated with fatigue. It’s the nature of the job. A recent study showed that 27 doctors were surveyed regarding their performance levels and association with fatigue. Nearly every single one revealed that they were functioning less than 80 percent of their mental capacity nearly half of the time they were on shift, and that in a 24 hour period, the doctors averaged only 5 hours of sleep. With this information, the Institute of Medicine created regulations that provide for doctors to work a maximum of 80 hours a week. Duty hours have been cut down to 16 hours for first year residents.
With all this information and regulations implemented in these fields, there (in theory) should be an increase of better rested professionals that provide for our safety. Will anyone pay attention? Hopefully. Will it make a difference? Maybe.
We live in a very fast-paced work environment. If we are not going 90 mph, then we feel like we are falling behind. For this reason, there will always be cases where fatigue plays a role in an unfortunate accident that can cause injury or worse. Can we do anyone, other than perhaps stay a little more vigilant ourselves? The answer, likely, is no.