Winning system tackles driver fatigue at 2012 Endeavour Awards

OPTALERT took out this year's Endeavour Safety Scheme of the Year Award for its revolutionary Fatigue Risk Profiler which is the only alertness monitoring technology in the world that can accurately measure a driver's alertness in real time and detect the early onset of drowsiness to prevent an accident.

The company's Chief Scientist Dr Murray Johns has been at the forefront of researching the physiology of drowsiness which includes new methods of measuring eye and eyelid movements and the proprietary drowsiness detection algorithm.

Dr Johns has developed the Johns Drowsiness Scale over the past 15 years and it has proven to be the world's first validated scale for drowsiness.

The compan has gone through a series of design perfections to deliver to the transport and mining sectors a behaviour based safety tool that constantly supports the need of the driver to remain safe during their journey.

Unfortunately no senior managers from Optalert could attend the presentation ceremony, however the company's marketing manager Ana Kolembus told Manufacturers' Monthly later the company was thrilled to hear that it had won the prestigious Endeavour's Safety Scheme of the Year Award sponsored by SICK for its profiler.

"We are very privileged to be recognised for the work we do in leading the safety space both in Australia and across the world with regards to decreasing a business' fatigue risk profile. 

"Managing driver drowsiness is a challenge on any work site, but the challenges of the mining and support sectors is especially great for many reasons. 

"The challenges of travel and distance means a driver's working day can be far longer than the 12 hour shift they were rostered for. 

"Combine this with working at night and in uncomfortable climates and you have a great fatigue risk on your hands," Kolembus said. 

She said the most innovative aspect of the profiler was the smart technology and now its ease of transportion from vehicle to vehicle.

"However, the predictive nature of Optalert is by far its most unique feature. There is no other technology that can measure the physiological signs of an impending fatigue incident the way that Optalert can," she said. 

"Now being able to use Optalert as a portable unit has added to the flexibility of a fleet and ensures they maximise the amount of data they gather. 

"It is this data, via the Fatigue Risk Profiler, that really shapes lasting and positive change on site."

She said the biggest challenge faced by the company when designing the Profiler was how to design a graphic user interface that allowed managers to quickly determine the real time alertness level of hundreds of drivers at the same time, and still identify those that needed closer attention while at the same time triggering visual and audible alarms for drivers at medium and high levels of fatigue risk.

"This problem was overcome by conceptualising a solution never before used in this application. The resultant software challenge to make the design a reality, further stretched our resources," she said.

The technology has now been perfected to allow managers to better share the burden of responsibility with their drivers when it comes to behaviour based safety and open the lines of communication between management and drivers in real time.

With the development of the Optalert Fatigue Risk Profiler, Optalert can now make a driver's level of alertness visible to management via the Internet. 

In doing so, Optalert assists those in the 'control room' to share in the responsibility of safe driving, while also improving safety for all road users including forward thinking fleet managers, mining operators, long haul bus and 4×4 drivers.

"This is science fiction meets reality. What was once thought of as future age – being able to view in real time the alertness levels of your whole driving fleet at one time, regardless of where they are in the world – is real. We do it every day. We are now looking at the next generation and expanding our markets."

The importance of drivers being alert while driving is well known and researched, with 20-30% of all road accidents involving driver fatigue costing Australia $3bn per year. Studies show that going without sleep for 17 hours has the same effect on driving ability as a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.05. Being awake for 24 hours has the same effect as a BAC of 0.1. 

"The Optalert Fatigue Risk Profiler is an important addition to the manufacturing landscape. 

"We are continually working on new projects and are looking to broaden their scope into the aviation, military, rail and security industries," Kolembus said.

With 20-30% of all road accidents involving driver fatigue, the system is a welcome tool in the fight to reduce road accidents. The system can now make a driver's level of alertness visible to management via the Internet.