Tired new dads a safety risk: study
Monday, 23 January 2012 Brigid Andersen
Mellor says each workplace has its own set of risks (Source: Don Bayley/iStockphoto)
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Running on empty Fathers of new babies are often so tired they pose a safety risk at work and on the road, a new study has found.
The research found fathers of newborns were 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.
Southern Cross University's Dr Gary Mellor led the study of 241 fathers, mostly from the Gold Coast, and says the study is groundbreaking because new dads are a "notoriously hard group of people" to get hold of.
He says many of those surveyed battled to find a work-family balance.
"They were displaying a lot of conflict in that they were trying to put family first," he says. "They don't want to be that distant sole provider that their father was."
Despite this, Mellor says the fathers in the study worked an average of 49 hours a week.
The majority of men involved in the research were employed as office workers or in construction and trade, and Mellor says each workplace has its own set of risks.
"In an office it might be that you fall down some stairs, or you trip over cords, but it's also about the decisions you make," he says.
"On a construction site it's working with heavy equipment, cranes, nail guns."
He says the study found the men's attitudes to safety changed the more tired they became.
"The survey was completed once by the fathers at six weeks and then again at 12 weeks and we found that while fatigue was increasing, the way fathers thought about safety at work changed," he said.
Mellor says he came up with the idea for the study at a barbecue just after he and his partner had their second child.
"I was telling the guys how tired I was and how I had nearly run off the road," he says.
"The guys at the barbecue then told me similar stories and I checked the research and not much had been done about sleep deprivation in fathers and how that affected their safety at work or to and from work."
He says parental leave may need to be rethought to help new dads cope.
"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."
Mellor says employers could also make changes so that new dads are not doing dangerous jobs.
The research has been published in the American Journal of Men's Health .
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Source : http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/01/23/3413606.htm