Fatigue in public safety: An identifiable, manageable risk

Do not wait for a tragedy to recognize and act on the risks involve in tired personnel


Gordon Graham here, continuing with some thoughts on the dangers of fatigue in public safety operations.

For those of you reading this piece who do not have a background in commercial vehicle enforcement, do a Google search on “how many hours can a big-rig driver operate.” Familiarize yourself with the 11-hour rule and the 14-hour rule and the 70-hour rule. These rules are too complex for me to summarize in this brief piece, but you will quickly figure out that the federal government is very concerned with how many hours a commercial vehicle driver can drive.

“Well Gordon, that’s a good thing – we don’t want truck drivers making complex decisions when they’re tired!”

I couldn’t agree more. But we give a cop a gun with bullets and put them on the street for 12 hours. We put a telecommunicator behind a console for 12 hours, and then a mandatory four more for overtime because we are shorthanded. We call out SWAT cops in the middle of the night who have already worked 12 hours that day. We expect firefighters to hit the ground running when the tones go off at 0200 even if it’s the fourth call of the shift and no one on the crew has slept. This is just stupid.

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