2 minute read
Occupational burnout has been at the forefront of work, health and safety discussions in the past few years. Long before this, the hardships and challenges faced at work were recognised by employees, employers, scholars and WHS experts.
In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially included the term ‘burnout’ in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). WHO states that burnout is an occupational phenomenon and as such, should not be applied to other areas of life outside an occupational context (i.e. in a relationship or after a workout).
The definition of burnout as defined in ICD-11 is as follows:
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
Commonly associated with stress – though not to be used interchangeably – occupational burnout is considered to have three dimensions.
- Exhaustion: a sense of being over-extended, mentally and physically exhausted.
- Depersonalisation: a mental detachment to certain aspects of the job.
- Inefficacy: feelings of a lack of professional achievement and personal fulfilment.
Previously perceived to be a ‘me problem’, workplace safety experts have understood that occupational burnout is really a systemic problem. Although individual characteristics have an impact on the likelihood of experiencing occupational burnout, workplace stressors have a much larger impact than these characteristics. Organisations have also recognised their primary role in preventing, recognising and dealing with burnout, with an increased focus on mental health and implementing measures to get help.
Experts say that a strong safety culture is needed to reduce burnout and to ensure workplace safety.
One area extremely relevant to this conversation is driver burnout.
Jobs that deal with the general public every day have been found to suffer from burnout the most. These workers also have a greater risk of being involved in crashes and to make mistakes while driving. Taxi drivers, personal vehicle drivers and bus drivers deal with customers daily and drive while doing so.
Occupational burnout for drivers has a direct correlation with vehicle collisions and workplace injuries. In 2018, nearly two-thirds of all work-related injuries in Australia were vehicle-related.
Of the worker fatalities in 2019, 72 (40%) were machinery operators and drivers and of these fatalities, over 80% were road and rail drivers. The transport, postal and warehousing industries had the highest number of fatal incidents with vehicle collision accounting for 43% of worker fatalities.
Occupational drivers face a unique set of challenges. Meeting demands of customers or passengers, time pressure and pressure to adhere to safety standards can all contribute to burnout. The length of shifts, quality of break times, remote nature of the job, repetitive and monotonous tasks as well as reduced social and family support can all add to the problem. When workers are driving on their own for hours on end it becomes difficult for organisations to spot burnout, while drivers seeking help may face obstacles in accessing support (read about recognising burnout HERE).
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