Working Hours, Sleep, & Fatigue Forum

Abstract for Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities Sector

Research Gaps and Needs for Work Hours and Fatigue in the Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities Sector

The Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities (TWU) industry includes establishments engaged in transportation of passengers and freight via air, ground, rail, and water; warehousing and storage of goods; and provision of utility services. There were approximately 8 million workers in the TWU sector in 2016.1 Although TWU comprised 5% of the workforce, it experienced 17% of the fatalities among U.S. workers and 7% of the total occupational injuries and illnesses.1 The TWU industry sector is uniquely characterized by continuous operations exemplified in almost every subsector.

Reducing fatigue-related events is included on the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. Research addressing workplace fatigue can lead to development of effective strategies to reduce the prevalence of injuries, safety critical events, and crashes among TWU workers. Research findings can inform organizational policies and procedures such as hours-of-service rules, fatigue prevention training, and fatigue management programs. Basic research examining the influence of work scheduling in missed sleep opportunities and disrupted circadian rhythms, evaluation research in determining effective fatigue mitigation strategies, and implementation and dissemination research are needed in the TWU sector. Four key take-home messages for further TWU research are:

  1. Round the clock operations and heavy workloads can lead to decreased quality sleep opportunities resulting in disrupted circadian cycles, impaired cognitive performance, and increased reaction times, leading to increased risk for injury and illness.
  2. Extended and variable length work schedules are prevalent throughout this sector. Individual schedules may not be consistent across days or weeks. Time pressures may limit sleep times.
  3. Fatigue may not be understood or recognized by workers. Education on the causes, recognition, and consequences of fatigue should be incorporated into an organization’s employee training and integrated into its safety culture.
  4. Fatigue may exacerbate physical and mental health disorders, which can adversely affect sleep and further increase fatigue.

References

  1. NIOSH [2018]. Current U.S. workforce data by NORA sector. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/surveillance/default.html. Accessed online March 6, 2019.
  2. National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB]. (2019). 2019-2020 NTSB most wanted list of transportation safety improvements: reduce fatigue-related accidents. Retrieved from https://www.ntsb.gov/safety/mwl/Pages/mwlfs-19-20/mwl2-fsa.aspxexternal icon

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Page last reviewed: May 24, 2019