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Awake to the danger

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May 1999

The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and the Arts

Chair Mr Paul Neville MP

Deputy Chair Mr Colin Hollis MP

Members Mr Steve Gibbons MP Mr Gary Hardgrave MP Hon David Jull MP Mr Peter Lindsay MP Mr Stewart McArthur MP

Mr Frank Mossfield AM MP Mr John Murphy MP Mr Stuart St Clair MP

Correspondence and inquiries Committee secretary House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport

and the Arts Parliament House CANBERRA ACT 2600

Tel 02 6277 4601 Fax 02 6277 2067 E-mail CTA.Reps(a;

Media Release

Awake to the danger Managing Fatigue in Transport

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and the Arts is conducting an inquiry into managing fatigue in transport.

Mr Paul Neville MP, Chair, in calling for submissions, said:

Human error is recognised as a cause o f many accidents in transport, whether minor or catastrophic. We already know a great deal about the contribution o f alcohol and speed to accidents involving human error.

What is not fully understood or appreciated is the role o f fatigue in human error.

It is now known that moderate levels o f fatigue produce high levels o f impairment comparable to alcohol intoxication. Tests by leading Australian researchers indicate that 17 hours o f sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol level o f 0.05%. Staying awake fo r 24 hours is

equivalent to a blood alcohol level o f 0.10%.

A crucial point is that fatigue is more than lack o f sleep or the result o f long working hours. Many factors need to be considered, such as the quality o f sleep, i f sleep or work is in split shifts and which hours in a 24 hour day are worked. You have a much greater chance o f an accident due to fatigue in the early hours o f the morning.

This is a wake up call to governments, companies, employees and the wider community. We are becoming increasingly aware o f fatigue as an issue in road and rail transport. This inquiry will go beyond road and

rail and include marine and air transport, which to date have not received the same level o f community attention. The consequences o f a fatigue related maritime accident on the Great Barrier Reef or an air

accident over a major city would be catastrophic in human, environmental and economic terms.

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It is clear that the issue o f fatigue has wide ranging legal, social and economic ramifications. It is estimated that fatigue in the Australian workplace costs up to SI. 7 billion in accidents and injuries, not to mention the impact on the individuals and families involved. The committee believes that industry and community awareness o f this issue has the potential

to contribute to changes in behaviour similar to that achieved with alcohol and speed in relation to accidents in transport.

This issue is important to any industry that involves shift work, such as mining, hospitals, emergency services, and even hospitality. As an occupational health and safety issue it has implications fo r both employers and employees that need to be addressed. Committee members would like to gather evidence from as many sources as possible. In this w a y we hope to bring the issue offatigue out from the shadows so that it can be tackled effectively and comprehensively.

The committee invites interested people and organisations to lodge written submissions with the committee secretary as soon as possible, but no later than Thursday 17 June 1999.

Submissions shopld address the inquiry’s terms of reference which are listed below. Advice on how to make a submission is available on the committee web site or can be provided on request from the secretariat.

Terms of Reference

In relation to managing fatigue in transport, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and the Arts is to inquire into, and report on the following.

• Causes of, and contributing factors to, fatigue. '

• Consequences of fatigue in air, sea, road and rail transport.

• Initiatives in transport addressing the causes and effects of fatigue.

• Ways of achieving greater responsibility by individuals, companies, and governments to reduce the problems related to fatigue in transport.

For further information

Media comment Paul Neville MP, committee chair 07 4152 0744 02 6277 4940

Background Meg Crooks, committee secretary 02 6277 4601

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