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Workplace fatigue a concern for vehicle operators in Saskatchewan

Watch above: One word may hold more weight than others for almost anyone who spends their day in the driver’s seat – fatigue. Joel Senick looks at the impact and steps to alleviate the issue.

SASKATOON – Workplace fatigue is at the centre of negotiations between Canadian Pacific Railway and the Teamsters Canada Union; however the issue isn’t exclusive to rail workers. Other industries where employees find themselves in the driver’s seat also focus on the issue.

“If you had a kid crying all night, or you had to get up and down and stuff, you still had to go to work,” said Chris Martin, who was a Saskatoon Transit bus operator for 20 years before retiring last year.

“There’s stress too which causes fatigue, in the sense you had to be at work in time, you want to get through your route on time,” he added.

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Martin said the attitude towards working fatigued evolved over the years that he drove bus in Saskatoon. When he started, the mindset was to “slough it off,” which isn’t the case anymore.

“It’s the cause of too many accidents, small errors; things like you think you’re signaling left when you’re actually signaling right,” said Martin.

“It’s very much a big concern nowadays for everybody, whether it be individual or the corporation.”

READ MORE: Redefining chronic fatigue with better diagnosis, new name

Martin said city administrators occasionally sent out memos on the subject of fatigue and that drivers spoke about the issue amongst themselves.

To make sure drivers are well rested, MD Ambulance mandates that employees take at least eight hours off between their 12 hour shifts, regardless of how much overtime they work.

“People actually need to have some down time,” said Troy Davies, director of public affairs for MD Ambulance.

“Especially when they’re dealing with life saving medications, to driving lights and sirens in the city, driving defensively and just knowing the routes of where they’re supposed to be going when they’re responding to calls,” he added.

For truck operators in the province, provincial and federal law dictates how long they can drive for at a time.

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“It’s all very regulated,” said Nicole Sinclair with the Saskatchewan Trucking Association.

“They can have their vehicles be put out of service if they’re not compliant with the hours of service,” she explained.

The association hosts educational programs for drivers that focus on fatigue, according to Sinclair, who added that the healthier the driver is the better one can safely operate a vehicle.

“Eating properly, to be properly hydrated, to be getting exercise whenever you can, so when you need to take those breaks, to get out, move around, be healthy, be good to your body,” said Sinclair.

A good night’s rest also goes a long way to combat workplace fatigue, according to sleep consultant Alysa Dobson. A bedtime routine can be the difference between falling asleep quickly and tossing endlessly.

“Have a warm bath, do something relaxing like maybe some reading and then head to bed shortly after,” who is a consultant for Saskatoon-based Sleep Well Baby.

READ MORE: Getting more sleep in 2015 a good resolution: consultant

Martin agrees that sleep is probably the biggest factor in making sure an operator is fit to be in the driver’s seat on any given day.

“Guarantee the sleep you need, really, I can’t say anything more important,” he said.

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