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I remember back 25 and 27 years when I had two brand new kids. I was absolutely knackered every day going into work. Over the years, friends of mine have said exactly the same. Well, that got me thinking about safety in the workplace and on the road. This article applies to every employer out there.

A report I found says fathers of new babies are often so tired that they pose a safety risk at work and on the road. A team of researchers at the Southern Cross University has analysed and found that those fathers are at greater risk of accidents.

In addition, these fathers 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. I wonder if the Road Safety Authority is aware of this.

Dr Gary Mellor from Southern Cross University in Australia, who conducted the study which focused on 241 fathers, says the findings are ground-breaking because new dads are a “notoriously hard group of people” to get hold of.

He says many of those surveyed found it difficult to achieve a work-family balance.

“They were displaying a lot of conflict in that they were trying to put family first,” he said. “They don’t want to be that distant sole provider that their father was.”

Despite this, the fathers in the study worked an average 49-hour week. Most were employed in the construction trade and as office workers. Dr 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 said. “On a construction site it’s working with heavy equipment, diggers and other dangerous machinery.”

He discovered the more men got tired, the more their attitude to health and safety changed. “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.

Dr Mellor 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 said.

“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 suggested that parental leave may need to be reconsidered 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.”

Perhaps 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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