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Fatigue puts transportation workers and passengers at risk, NTSB chairman warns (3/9)

March 9, 2010
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National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman encouraged the sleep research and healthcare community to continue their efforts to educate transportation policy makers of the dangers of fatigue in all modes of transportation, according to a NTSB press release.

Speaking before the annual conference of the National Sleep Foundation in Washington, D.C., Chairman Hersman remarked that fatigue has been a concern for the Board since the creation of the agency in 1967 and it has been an issue on the Board's Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements since the list was established in 1990.

"The work of the National Sleep Foundation and other organizations and individuals is critical to improving transportation safety policy," said Chairman Hersman. "The NTSB is interested and willing to partner with you in developing a greater awareness of fatigue."

Hersman highlighted a number of accident investigations across all transportation modes that included fatigue as the probable cause or a contributing factor to accidents. As a result, the Board has made safety recommendations that range from deploying fatigue detection systems to reduce the occurrence of accidents to installing electronic on-board recorders that collect and maintain hours of service data on vehicle operators.

"We can't always prove fatigue as a cause of an accident, but the frequency with which we now routinely document the presence of fatigue-related factors in transportation operations is alarming," Hersman stated.

Hersman remarked that while there are still no definitive tools to conclusively identify the degree to which a person is fatigued, the major challenge is to ensure that all those in transportation report to work rested and fit for duty — for their own safety and for the safety of those they are transporting.

The complete text of Chairman Hersman's speech may be obtained on the Board's website at: http://www.ntsb.gov/speeches/hersman/daph100305.html.

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