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Long distances to remote well sites mean oil and gas workers at risk of drowsy driving

NIOSH provides information, tips to help workers stay awake behind the wheel

Posted April 3, 2018

A recent National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH) publication aims to help employers in the oil and gas industry prevent work-related crashes due to fatigue. Because well sites are often in remote areas, oil and gas workers may end up driving long distances to reach them, which can mean driving while drowsy. The document, “Oil and Gas Workers: How to Prevent Fatigued Driving at Work,” provides tips on staying awake behind the wheel.

NIOSH says drowsy driving is a major factor in crashes in the industry. In fact, crashes are the leading cause of death for oil and gas extraction workers. The fact sheet outlines several factors that contribute to workplace fatigue. These include:

  • Time of day,
  • Monotonous tasks,
  • Length of time awake, and
  • Medications and health conditions.

Warning signs of fatigued driving include:

  • Frequent yawning,
  • Heavy eyelids,
  • Drifting from the lane,
  • Forgetting the last few miles driven.

NIOSH urges oil and gas workers to do the following to stay awake while driving:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Understand and follow your company’s policies about fatigue management, planning travel, and hours-of-service agreements.
  • Maintain good health.
  • Use “stop-work authority” any time you feel it is unsafe to continue driving, and intervene if you believe a coworker may be fatigued.

Finally, NIOSH says that in an emergency, if a worker feels tired, but driving is unavoidable, the worker should pull over, drink a cup of coffee, and take a nap for 15-30 minutes before continuing. However, NIOSH also notes that stop-gap measures, such as using caffeine, rolling down the window, or turning up the radio, are no substitutes for sleep.

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