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Warning - poor driving conditions

  • United Kingdom
  • Health and safety

20-07-2018

Warning - Poor Driving Conditions
Looking after those on the road

The latest statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive highlight that the ‘Transportation and Storage Sector’ have a rate of fatal injury around 1.5 to 2 times the average rate across all industries (http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/pdf/fatalinjuries.pdf).  This is worrying news, particularly in light of a recent warning from Unite around the ageing workforce driving heavy goods vehicles around the country (http://www.unitetheunion.org/news/lorry-driving-in-crisis-due-to-health-problems-and-recruitment-crisis-warns-unite/).

Driver health is an issue for many organisations, from those that employ drivers as part of national haulage operations, to those whose drivers use their own vehicles for occasional journeys.  So what are the common hazards? 

  • Driver Health – All those who drive have a personal obligation to ensure they are ‘fit’ behind the wheel, but organisations cannot ignore the need to monitor employee health concerns.  Those driving large goods vehicles are subject to formalised medical tests, but can this not be extended to all those who get behind the wheel?  This may be considered a step too far by some, but organisations should nonetheless consider whether they hold information about an employee that may be relevant to their fitness to drive. 

Organisations, particularly occupational health functions, are often aware of medical treatments being received, and medication being prescribed.  Have employees been reminded to consider any impact on their driving ability?  DVLA resources are very clear about what must be reported: https://www.gov.uk/driving-medical-conditions

  • Driver Wellbeing – Many organisations have invested heavily in their employee wellbeing programmes, including on-site nutritionists, healthy eating initiatives and flexible working programmes.  Often remote workers, and particularly drivers, are inadvertently excluded on the basis they do not have an office presence, or regular access to the staff canteen.  Employers should be mindful of how wellbeing projects are inclusive of all employees, regardless of location or work activity.  This is particularly important for those who spend a lot of time driving; who may feel isolated and unsupported by the management structure.

Many employers spend significant sums of money assessing employee workstations, but fail to appreciate that some within the organisation could be sat behind the wheel for the majority of their working day.  How are they to be captured? 

  • Driver Safety – The safety of drivers is a multi-faceted issue, with significant cross-over between what a driver is personally responsible for, and where their employer should play a part.  We would encourage employers to consider the following:
    • Fatigue – Outside of the regulated goods vehicle sector, are drivers reminded of the need for regular breaks, and provided with the authority to book hotels in the event of longer trips?
    • Site Safety – Many delivery drivers will visit unfamiliar locations as part of their working day.  Pulling up in an unfamiliar location, it is very easy to see how many of the hazards highlighted in the HSE’s latest statistics arise, including being ‘struck by moving vehicles’, which accounted for 26 worker deaths in 2017/18.
    • Vehicle Maintenance – Vehicles provided by an organisation are ‘work equipment’, in the same way as a set of ladders or a laptop.  ‘Pool’ vehicles and minibuses are good examples of where shared resources may create a lack of individual ownership and breed neglect in terms of maintenance and upkeep.    
    • Recording Accidents and Incidents – Poor driving can be a very subjective topic, but hopefully all agree that incidents on the road should be recorded and investigated in the same way as those that occur in the workplace.  There may still be lessons to learn, and improvements to make.

The Unite news report referred to above highlights health problems within an ageing workforce operating heavy goods vehicles, combined with a heavily reliance on drivers from other parts of the European Union.  The issues highlighted need to be tackled, but should also be seen as symptoms of a lack of investment generally in an activity on which so many businesses rely.  

When managing those on the road – Which way are you heading?

 

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