We all experience tiredness in any aspect of our lives, whether at home, on the move or at work. Whilst it is normal to be tired after a period of activity or at the end of a long day, excessive tiredness can cause problems.
There is a world of difference between having a quick nap at your desk and falling asleep at the wheel. For those people whose jobs involve irregular shift patterns, night work, physically demanding work or long periods of driving, tiredness is one of several side effects.
This places them at risk of an accident.
All of us have times when we do not perform to our usual standard because we are tired but can do so without any harm to ourselves or others. But if you are employed in a job which is physically and/or mentally demanding or involves working unsociable hours then tiredness will occur which can result in a serious accident.
Does this sound familiar? If you have been involved in an accident due to work related tiredness then you may be able to claim compensation.
However, be aware that this is a very difficult issue to prove and there needs to be strong evidence to show a link between your job, fatigue and the accident.
Times in the day when accidents are more likely to occur
Many accidents happen in the afternoon. Many road traffic accidents involve a percentage of motorists who are driving as part of their job: the afternoon appears to be the time of day when they are most likely to have an accident.
The main reason for this is tiredness.
If someone has started work at a very early hour of the morning then by the time the afternoon comes around they may have worked an 8 or 9 hour day by then. The effects of this include tiredness, decreased concentration and a lack of judgement – all of which are risk factors for an accident.
All it takes is for a tired driver to take their eyes of the road or fall asleep at the wheel and disaster happens. The consequences of this can be devastating.
Evenings are another time of the day when accidents occur. Unsurprisingly, accidents occur at this time due to tiredness at the end of a long day when our cognitive functions are less effective.
Accidents due to tiredness tend to occur in jobs which involve driving or working with machinery or equipment. The risks of operating a piece of machinery whilst tired are as serious as those whilst driving.
Again, the consequences can be devastating for both the affected person and anyone around them.
Employer duty of care
Any employer who runs a business which requires employees to work long shifts, unsociable hours or doing hard, physical activity needs to be aware of the risks of fatigue.
They should take this into account and understand the link between work-related tiredness and accidents. This means taking steps to reduce the risk of accident as a result of this.
There are Health and Safety guidelines regarding the safety of employees whilst engaged in shift work, long hours or unsociable hours. These guidelines refer to shift work and fatigue offshore but there is general information regarding this issue on their website.
(Source: Health and Safety Executive)
Other precautions including ensuring that jobs which have this degree of risk are not likely to impact upon other employees and scheduling breaks where possible.
For example there are jobs such as lorry driving which have strict rules regarding the number of hours a driver can do. This Working Time Directive restricts the numbers of hours a driver can work in a 24 hour period and requires them to take a rest period before continuing.
(Source: Health and Safety Executive)
The effects of fatigue cannot be underestimated.
Effects of fatigue
Tiredness at work or falling asleep on the job has serious consequences. Nodding off at the wheel even for a split second can have life long effects which include disability or death.
The consequences of this are traumatic for you and your family. If you have been involved in an accident due to work-related tiredness then this can cause a great deal of worry for your family.
To start with they have your accident to cope with. In some cases they may be faced with bereavement.
If your accident has left you with a chronic injury or permanently debilitated then both you and your family have to face up to the long term consequences of this. These include physical, mental and emotional trauma.
Post traumatic stress disorder often occurs after a serious accident.
Then there are practical issues to deal with on a day to day level. These include a loss of earnings if your injury has forced you to give up work, additional expenses such as rehabilitation, travel fares to and from hospital, specialist nursing care, support services and counselling.
Finally, there is worry and uncertainly about the future. How will your family cope? How will they manage their drop in living standards? Who will pay for these additional expenses?
This is where compensation can help. A payout can cover the cost of these additional expenses and bring some peace of mind to your family.
Making a claim for compensation for fatigue
Look for a solicitor, claims management company or personal injury lawyer who specialise in these types of claims. They will have years of experience and an understanding of the complexity of these cases and can advise accordingly.
They should have knowledge of workplace accidents and illnesses, in particular, claims arising from injuries sustained due to work-related tiredness. This knowledge will be used to advise and guide you with your claim.
He or she will carry out an initial review of your case to determine if there are suitable grounds for pursuing a claim and enough evidence to do so.
This is an important issue as the difficulty with this type of claim is proving that your accident was caused by work related tiredness.
But the lawyer or solicitor should discuss this with you and any other aspect regarding your claim.
The claims process is discussed in more detail within our making a claim for compensation section.
Time limit for claiming compensation for fatigue
Claims for personal injury usually have a 3 year time limit which starts from the date of the original accident or injury.
However you may wish to confirm this with your lawyer or solicitor as there are a few exceptions to this.
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