The impact of sustained wakefulness and time-of-day on OSPAT performance

Ind Health. 2005 Jan;43(1):186-92. doi: 10.2486/indhealth.43.186.


Fatigue associated with shiftwork is a key contributor to human error in the workplace. One way to prevent fatigue-related errors from occurring is to identify fatigue in employees using fitness-for-duty measures. The Occupational Safety Performance Assessment Test (OSPAT), an unpredictable tracking task that measures hand-eye coordination, is currently being used as a fitness-for-duty measure in a variety of industries, but has not yet been validated as a test sensitive to the effects of fatigue. Consequently, the aim of this study was to systematically examine the impact of sustained wakefulness and time-of-day on OSPAT performance. Twenty individuals (10 male, 10 female), aged between 18-25 yr (M=20.90, SD=2.29) participated in the study, which was conducted in Australia. The study had a repeated measures design, whereby participants completed the OSPAT and measures of sustained attention (i.e., the psychomotor vigilance task: PVT), and subjective alertness (i.e., the Visual Analog Scale: VAS) every 2 h during 24 h of sustained wakefulness, beginning at 07:00 h. Results revealed that VAS ratings of alertness, PVT performance, and OSPAT performance declined significantly as hours of wakefulness increased during the night-time (all p<.01). Furthermore, a positive correlation between OSPAT and PVT performance was observed (r=0.40, p<.01). Overall, these findings suggest that OSPAT is sensitive to sustained wakefulness during the night-time, and builds the case for OSPAT being a suitable measure for determining fitness-for-duty in workplace environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Australia
  • Fatigue / diagnosis
  • Fatigue / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Health*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Time
  • Wakefulness / physiology*
  • Work Capacity Evaluation*