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Episode 6: Tired to Death – why we need to talk about sleep and fatigue


You’ve worked a 12-hour shift, been up all night with a new baby, and driven back to work to start it all again, grabbing an energy drink before you go on shift. That’s normal, that’s ok, everyone does it, life carries on…

You’ve worked a 12-hour shift, slept fine for 8 hours, driven to work, stopped off for a pint before going back on shift. That’s not ok, that’s the way to endanger others and lose your job, with life-changing consequences…

Research suggests that 24 hours without sleep is the equivalent of being 25% over the UK drink-driving limit* and yet we don’t recognize how dangerous it is. Why don’t we treat tired driving like drunk driving? A review of international evidence indicates that driver fatigue may be a contributory factor in up to a fifth of road accidents, and up to one quarter of fatal and serious accidents. When you look at the number of deaths of people traveling to and from shift work, the figures should upset us. While data for some sectors is hard to come by, we know that in the decade up to 2018, 30 UK police officers were killed on the roads travelling to or from work, many in the early hours of the morning.. *24 hours without sleep equivalent 1.0mg/100ml. UK drink-driving limit 0.8mg/100ml.

And yet we still find it difficult to admit to being tired. In this podcast, Adam Christopher goes underground with the Bank Capacity Upgrade Project night shift to find out how shift patterns impact workers. He hears about the devastating effect on John Owens – arrested for dangerous driving after a shift. He also talks to specialist academics and practitioners Dr Ashleigh Filtness, Lecturer in Transport Safety at Loughborough Design School; Judith Devlin, HSE Advisor at Morgan Sindall Infrastructure; and Yvonne Taylor, Police Inspector and PhD research student about technological advances in fatigue management, and their retrospective approaches, observations and suggestions.

This podcast contains strong language.