The Dangerous Impact of Commuting on Workforce Safety
by Troy Schrenk
When it comes to remote worksites in the oil and gas industry, or on isolated construction sites, lodging options are few and far between. It is common practice for employers to provide their workers a per diem for housing expenses, and let it go at that. That approach saves money, but it comes with a big catch; workers often have few options except for inadequate accommodations, a long drive away from the job site. These long commutes have a major effect on sleep, job performance, and, most importantly, safety.
Longer Commute, Lower Quality of Life
Some workers find themselves in places an hour away, or even longer. Commuting is one thing for an urban office employee working 8 hours a day, five days a week. But for a worker pulling 12 hour or more shifts, day or night, long commutes pose serious problems.
The first thing to suffer is relaxation time. A luxury? No—a necessity. There’s more to quality of life than eat, sleep, and work. In our white paper, Workforce Housing and Feeding Solutions for Health, Safety, Productivity and Morale, Christopher Wanjek states simply, “Workers need to decompress, and being away from home, in poor and inadequate shelter, can make this difficult for the worker.” Workers might skimp on sleep to watch TV, spend time with co-workers. They might, as we wrote about in a previous blog, turn to substance abuse and other vices. Without that valuable downtime, sleep suffers in turn.
More Drive Time, More Risk
Long drives mean lost sleep time. Maybe a worker might be able to catch a few Zs while a friend drives. But that doesn’t make up for a poor night’s sleep. It certainly doesn’t help the driver. Another Target Lodging white paper, Optimizing Sleep for an Optimal Workforce, presents the risks. Reaction speed, memory, and the ability to focus and make decisions all start to suffer after more than 18 consecutive hours awake. After several days with only five or six hours of sleep a night, the accumulated sleep deficit magnifies these negative effects.
Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Fatigue can cause performance impairment equivalent to or greater than 0.10% of blood alcohol concentration, a level unacceptable for driving a car, much less operating dangerous construction equipment or machinery. Add this to rough roads, slippery weather conditions, and nighttime driving for an unacceptable level of risk.
Nancy H. Rothstein, The Sleep Ambassador®, points out: “While a company can stipulate zero tolerance for alcohol, sleep deprivation can generate similar risks and should be addressed with the same rigor.” Accidents on the road or on the job are both preventable.
How Reducing Drive Time Helps Reduce Fatigue
In our past blog post, we explored the impact of fatigue on safety. It’s a well-known fact that sleep deprivation contributes to workplace accidents as well as low productivity. Today’s employers use fatigue management plans to address the risk and lower the rate of workplace accidents. However, they often overlook the most important missing puzzle piece: where are workers are sleeping? A superior sleep environment isn’t good enough if it’s 90 minutes away.
Here’s where the true value of the Target Lodging approach comes through. We implement workforce housing solutions convenient to worksites, not hours away, even providing shuttles to the sites. This means that workers have plenty of relaxation time after their shift, in a safe, positive environment. This also means they time to take advantage of sleeping quarters with luxurious bedding, private baths, recliners, and amenities such as room darkening blinds.
Long commutes cut into valuable downtime and sleep, leaving workers poorly rested and ill-prepared. They put workers at higher risk for accidents on the road and on the job. Comfortable housing with superior sleeping conditions, located near worksites, is the ultimate way to ensure rested, prepared workforce with a higher quality of life. Investing in dedicated housing, close to site, will drive your ROI in terms of both safety and productivity—something every company can live with.