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Fatigue and Driving for Work

Updated: Apr 19

Driver fatigue is a significant contributor to serious road traffic collisions and fatalities on UK roads and according to Driver Fatigue Factsheet 0220 (rospa.com) in 2022 driver fatigue resulted in almost 1300 collisions leading to drivers (and or other road users) being seriously injured or killed due to the drivers delayed ability to brake or swerve, due to fatigue, and sleepiness.


Driver fatigue incidents predominantly involve men and occur between 02:00 – 06:00hrs and 14:00 – 16:00hrs, often after individuals eating a large meal or drinking alcohol.

Road traffic collisions may result in the driver sustaining damage to their vehicle, causing damage to other vehicles and/or property which may cause personal injury, and or death, or the serious injury or death of other road users. If convicted of dangerous or careless driving the driver of the vehicle may be liable to a substantial financial penalty, driving ban or in some situations even a custodial sentence.


The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which is 50 years old in 2024, requires employers to ensure that the risks associated with driving for work (not including commuting to a normal place of work) are effectively managed, an employer with drivers should do this by:

Developing a driving for work policy which includes:


Providing training and education for employees on the risks of driving and driving tired.

N.B. Even driving short distances to return home after a long day’s work, or following a night shift or extended period of working without a day off work will put employees at far greater risk of having an accident due to fatigue.


Enabling a driver, without prejudice, to advise their line manager that they DO NOT FEEL FIT TO DRIVE due to lack of sleep, feelings of exhaustion, drowsiness caused by medication, drugs (prescribed or illegal) or alcohol (which may have been consumed the night before) and allocating them alternative duties where this can be accommodated.


Undertaking periodic driver medicals or safety critical medicals which enable employers to be made aware of any underlying issues which may put a driver at greater risk of fatigue whilst driving i.e. sleep apnoea.


Planning journeys and travel schedules with guidance from the Highway Code (Rule 91) in mind (see below) which states:


“Driving when you are tired greatly increases your risk of collision.

To minimise this risk

  • Make sure you are fit to drive. Do not begin a journey if you are tired. Get a good night’s sleep before embarking on a long journey.

  • Avoid undertaking long journeys between midnight and 6 am, when natural alertness is at a minimum.

  • Plan your journey to take sufficient breaks. A minimum break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours of driving is recommended.

  • If you feel at all sleepy, stop in a safe place. Do not stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway

  • The most effective ways to counter sleepiness are to drink, for example, two cups of caffeinated coffee and to take a short nap (at least 15 minutes)”

 

Employers may wish to set daily, weekly, or monthly time limits for drivers of all vehicles, reducing pay incentives associated with distance travelled, postponing journeys during periods of adverse weather, and making use of technology to avoid driving altogether where practicable i.e. for meetings.


Where affordable, employers may also wish to consider the installation of drowsiness recognition systems which monitor eye or head movements of the driver and can prompt them to take appropriate breaks.

 

Additional information about driving and the risk of fatigue can be found in the following links.


 

Insight Workplace Health can support employers in managing the risk of driving and fatigue by undertaking periodic driver medicals to ensure that, where necessary, you are advised of any underlying conditions which may impact upon an individual’s ability to fulfil the driving aspect of their role.

 

If you would like to discuss how we can assist you in implementing driver medicals to keep your employees safe, contact us here or call us on 01792 321010.

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