A recent article singled out the habits and fatigue concerns for new fathers. While this is equally relevant to both parents, it is very similar to the duress and fatigue issues associated with business travel. Not to mention new parents that travel for business! Consider these facts when you plan or review your travel risk management plan.
Businesses have been urged to take measures to reduce the risk of exhausted new fathers causing themselves an injury in the workplace, following the publication of new research into the subject.
The study, entitled Fatigue and Work Safety Behavior in Men During Early Fatherhood and published recently in the American Journal of Men’s Health, found that increased fatigue duringearly fatherhood was related to decreased safety behaviour at work.
In other words, tired new fathers are more likely to make bad decisions regarding their personal safety at work than their well-rested colleagues.
“The results paint a disturbing picture of fathers with babies undergoing worsening fatigue over the first 12 weeks of their baby’s life, unrelieved by poor and interrupted sleep, and with potential consequences to their work safety,” said lead researcher Dr Gary Mellor from Southern Cross University.
“It seems they are 36 per cent more likely to have a near miss at work and 26 per cent more likely to have a near miss on the road to and from work than someone else.”
A total of 241 fathers, mostly from the Gold Coast, were asked to fill in a questionnaire at six and 12 weeks after the birth of their child, and it was the effect of fatigue on their attitude to workplace safety that was a major concern, said Dr Mellor.
“We found that while fatigue was increasing, the way fathers thought about safety at work changed,” he said.
As well as fatigue being “inversely related” to safety behaviour, the study noted that new fathers average less than six hours per night of interrupted sleep – and are unable to recover due to ongoing interrupted and poor sleep patterns.
“Managers should consider the potential for fatigue to compromise work safety and develop risk management strategies that target new fathers,” said the study.
Dr Mellor suggested several risk management measures that businesses may choose to implement in order to improve the occupational health and safety of new fathers, with the allocation of parental leave being at the top of the list.
“Most of the men in the study had time off at the birth, but perhaps parental leave for fathers should be taken later in the baby’s life rather than the first two weeks. This is when fathers are most fatigued and it would allow them time to overcome it,” he said.
“Or perhaps parental leave could be taken over a period of time, with fathers taking a long weekend or two over the first months of the birth.”
Another key recommendation to reduce the workplace risks faced by fatigued new fathers was to ensure that they aren’t involved in dangerous tasks, or to improve workplace flexibility to allow exhausted workers to rearrange their work.
The study’s participants were also found to be working an average of 49 hours per week – well above the national average of 43 hours – with many feeling the need to work long hours to bring in the extra income that their growing family required.
With Dr Mellor suggesting that putting in long hours could exacerbate fatigue, encouraging new fathers not to burn the candle at both ends could also help to improve their OHS profile.