The parliamentary report revealed health risks associated with sleep deprivation such as cardiovascular diseases, greater risk of diabetes and mental health conditions.
“Sleep deprivation is an endemic symptom of the crisis in the transport industry. We know that safety is the first thing to give when transport operators and workers are under pressure, causing disproportionate cases of injuries and deaths. This alarming report gives us additional cause for concern for the health and wellbeing of transport workers who all too often have no choice but to work fatigued,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
“Transport workers do not have the luxury of prioritising sleep when pay and conditions are worsening and insecure work is on the rise. Truck drivers are pressured to work longer and harder to make ends meet, often forced to pull over and rest slumped over their steering wheels to prevent a fatal crash. The TWU has previously exposed airport workers forced to catch a few hours of sleep under baggage carousels between split shifts. The only solution to ease the deadly pressure on transport workers is for the wealthy clients and airports at the top to ensure transport supply chains are properly funded and workers are receiving safe, fair and secure pay and conditions,” Kaine continued.
The report also reveals that the blood alcohol concentration equivalent is over the legal driving limit of 0.05 after just five consecutive nights of five hours sleep. This is a serious cause for concern for truck drivers, bus drivers, airport workers operating machinery and cabin crew responsible for the safety of passengers.
The report also describes mental health conditions associated with lack of sleep, such as the link between insomnia and depression.
“For many truck drivers, sleep has become something to be feared due to the psychological distress of spending hours each day and night preventing yourself from falling asleep at the wheel. For airport workers on split shifts, fitful sleep patterns could easily lead to Shift Work Sleep Disorder; a cause of insomnia and related mental health problems. Transport workers are already at higher risk of poor mental health and feelings of isolation. Transport workers deserve far better in this country. They provide a vital service to all Australians. The Federal Government must step up and ensure the health and safety of transport workers is prioritised over profits at the top of supply chains,” Kaine said.
A 2017 Health Survey of the New South Wales Transport Industry* found that truck drivers have a 7% higher chance of developing depression than other Australians.