In every workplace, health and safety laws apply. It is the duty of every employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work.
Not only do health and safety laws apply to activities inside the workplace, but they’re also for employees who work on the road, such as lorry, taxi and delivery drivers, as well as chauffeurs, public transport drivers and tour guides. In fact, The Department for Transport has found that more than a quarter of all road traffic incidents may involve somebody who is driving for work.
Therefore, it is essential for employers to effectively manage the risks to drivers as part of their health and safety arrangements. Additionally, you must take a look at how you can assist their wellbeing at work too — after all, happy employees create a positive and strong company culture.
We’ve collated a round up of health, safety and wellbeing tips for employees who drive.
Managing Road Safety
First and foremost is safety on the road. Hazards can present themselves in the vehicle, on the journey or within the driver themselves. As well as affecting your employees, other road users and pedestrians can also be at risk. It’s especially beneficial to think about which employees may be more at risk — they could be new to the job, driving long distances or driving for long periods of time.
Potential hazards aren’t just of the mechanical nature — they can also present themselves in an employee’s stress or uncertainty about the role, not having enough rest stops or driving for too many hours. Put yourself in your employee’s shoes and even ask them directly so you know exactly what the risks are from those who know first hand.
Once you’ve identified the hazards, decide how likely it is that harm will occur. While you’re not expected to eliminate all risks, you must be aware of the main risks and know how to manage them responsibly so that you can do everything, within reason, to protect people from harm.
The Driving at Work manual from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) — the government agency that regulates workplace safety — is a good place for employers to start.
With road safety comes occupational health, which focuses on the health and wellbeing of staff in the workplace. As well as improving your employee’s day-to-day work life, placing resources on occupational health will also decrease sick days, which in turn will reduce the associated costs.
What occupational health issues are there in driving? Of course, it depends on the length of time and how often your employee is on the road, but here are some to consider.
According to HSE, 41% of all workplace illnesses are musculoskeletal disorders, which include back pain. While this isn’t often caused by anything in particular, poor posture and being in a fixed position for an extended period of time puts people, especially those who drive for more than four hours a day on a regular basis, at risk. Physiotherapist Jan Vickery offers some fantastic tips on how to prevent back pain from driving.
Another occupational health risk for driving for long periods of time is pressure ulcers, which can affect people who sit for long periods of time. They often form gradually but are mostly preventable. A simple pressure relief cushion on the driver’s seat can keep an employee comfortable all day.
As with any job that involves sitting down all day, putting on unhealthy weight is a real concern. Unum has created an interesting infographic that discusses obesity in the workplace, as well as views from employees. This research shows that 31% of employees believe that their employer should help them lose weight, and employees who exercise regularly are generally happier and feel better about themselves, so it’s an initiative to consider if you don’t already have something in place. You could consider workplace initiatives such as physical team-building activities, a competition that rewards your employees for walking the most steps over a certain time period (to encourage a bit of healthy team rivalry) or subsidised gym memberships.
Lack of control over food on the road can be a contributing factor to obesity too. Encourage your employees to take a health packed lunch with them to work, which not only tastes delicious but is good for them too. Here are some healthy lunch ideas for work that are easy to make and will keep well until they’re ready to eat.
Stop Often and Go Outside
This advice is not to be underestimated. Encourage your employees to always take their rest stops and to get out of the vehicle where they can. Here they can stretch their legs and take a breath of fresh air — a simple but effective technique to rejuvenate before the next leg.
As an employer, it’s our responsibility to look after our staff member’s health, safety and wellbeing, even if they’re independent workers on the road. As the Richard Branson quote goes,
“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”