A TRADE union has criticised the increasing trend for factories to force longer hours on staff after an ‘exhausted’ operative died following a crash on the M5.

Tragic Sorina Gheorghe was said to have complained of being “tired” and suffering from a headache after working an apparent four hours extra at a new factory job the day before she died, an inquest heard.

Having arrived home in Worcester at 7pm from her job inspecting Jaguar doors in Birmingham, she was out of the door the next day around 5am for another full-time shift, an inquest heard this week.

The 24-year-old misjudged an overtake and panicked as she tried to correct her Peugeot 206 between junctions 5 and 4A but “lost control” and swerved into the path of a 4x4 on April 3.

Lynsey Mann, GMB health and safety officer, said: “We have noticed that over the past couple of years, factories have been changing their shift patterns to include longer hours, with less breaks, more night shifts and increasingly monotonous tasks.

“These practices cause fatigue and this in turn increases the likelihood of road accidents by 20 per cent which are then 50 per cent more likely to result in death or serious injury.

“It is also younger workers who are more likely to carry out tasks that other more experienced workers would turn down, for fear that they will lose their job, making them more vulnerable.”

The figures quoted by Ms Mann are taken from research undertaken by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

The organisation’s website states crashes are most likely to happen on long journeys, particularly on motorways, between 2am and 6am, or after working long shifts, especially night shifts.

“Sleepiness reduces reaction time. It also reduces vigilance, alertness and concentration so that the ability to perform attention-based activities is impaired,” ROSPA said.

The collision had taken place around 5.40am on a section of SMART motorway where there is no hard shoulder and the left two lanes split off towards the M42 junction, while the right lanes continue on towards the M6.

PC Mark Murphy, forensic investigator for West Mercia Police, said: “The area doesn’t benefit from street lighting so was very dark at the time.”

A spokesman for Highways England has said, however, there are no current plans to change this.

They said a third of the country’s motorways do not have lighting and these are regularly monitored, adding that the crash would’ve happened near a junction and junctions themselves always have lighting.

“There’s not a simple answer. Lack of lighting was not put down as a cause [of the crash],” the spokesman added.

As reported yesterday, Worcester MP Robin Walker has promised to push the Department for Transport to consider Miss Gheorghe’s death when discussing any further motorway-related learner driver policy changes.

The factory worker was described as a “nervous and inexperienced” driver who avoided using motorways prior to the crash. Mr Walker said ensuring as many people as possible get extra experience while learning to drive “makes a lot of sense”, with motorway lessons not currently compulsory.