occupational health
2nd November 2015

Driving is the most dangerous work activity that people can do. It’s estimated that 150 people are killed or seriously injured every week in crashes involving someone using the road for work purposes. With these types of statistics it is time for employers to consider their employees fitness for work and whether they are doing enough to manage the risks from the use of workplace transport and whether there employees are fit for work.

Those who drive for who are still governed by HSE guidelines, which state “Health and safety law applies to on the road work activities as to all work activities and the risks should be effectively managed within a health and safety system.

In a recent survey cited by Health and Safety at Work Magazine, one in four employers disclosed serious concerns that their drivers did not have adequate eyesight or were otherwise not fit for work. However the survey also stated that more than half (54%) of employers in fact did not offer any eye care to their workers as part of their risk prevention strategies, so couldn’t measure their fitness for work.

Whilst it is the individual license holder’s responsibility to ensure they have the necessary eyesight standard for the vehicle they operate, they are also required to notify the DVLA and inform their employer of any deterioration in their vision.

From our experience of undertaking vision screening, we have found that drivers can find it difficult to notice that their eyesight is gradually deteriorating. Furthermore, those who routinely work in challenging conditions such as low sun or at night may find their eyesight decrease at a faster rate than everyone one else.

Although the onus is on the license holder, as part of an employer’s due diligence and assessment of any foreseeable risks, employers need to consider an individual’s fitness for work and whether they are fit to drive as a fundamental part of their risk assessment process. In addition to eyesight and general health, employers should also consider a number of other areas including fatigue and medications.

Experts suggest that one in five fatal crashes on roads are caused by tired drivers. This has been corroborated by recent research which suggests performance of those who drive continuously for 3 hours at night is as impaired as if they were to drive at the drink drive level in the UK. This level of impairment means, that a fatigue management programme and adequate rest breaks needs to be adopted by those organisations that have company drivers, to ensure their fitness for work.

In addition to this, the risks of impairment associated with medication use have also meant that companies need to consider how they manage the fitness for work of those employees who use medications. Whilst many employers rely heavily on an individual’s GP for guidance on fitness for tasks, many do not understand the intricacies or risks of a worksite and therefore may not be able to provide the necessary advice required for an employer. Utilising an occupational health provider means that appropriate advice relating to the impact of a medication can be obtained, thus ensuring control of the risks.

In order to determine an individual’s overall fitness for work and competence to drive, our advice to employers is to consider a few key areas;

  • Fatigue
  • Health including eyesight and the impact of any medical conditions
  • Medications
  • Class and suitability of vehicle

As part of the government initiative to reduce red tape at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the paper counterpart driving licence was removed in June 2015. Before this change the physical document gave many fleet managers an instant snapshot of a driver’s entitlement to drive; including what class of vehicle they were able to take on the road. During the transition to an automated system, many fleet managers will need to consider how they undertake checks and this should include determining suitability for individuals to drive where licenses were obtained outside of the UK.

In order to manage fitness for work, we would advice monitoring the following transport risks:

  • Employers undertake a risk assessment relating to workplace transport that includes:
    • Fitness to drive for the individual driver and any considerations that are required for the use of medications and fatigue
    • Competence to drive for the individual drivers
    • Suitable selection of vehicles
    • The work activities including: coupling/uncoupling, loading/unloading, tipping, working at heights, and sheeting
    • Traffic management on site
    • Segregation of pedestrians and traffic
  • Ensure that you have appropriate management and supervision for workplace transport. This should include; monitoring the drivers to ensure they are following safe working practices and ensuring appropriate time is allocated to travel to and from work related activities.
  • Maintain site layout and internal traffic routes.
  • Consider driver training so that individuals are aware of the risks and undertake adequate rest breaks on longer journeys.
  • Ensure company drivers inform their GP of the nature of their role.
  • Adopt a robust medication advice procedure that includes seeking medical opinion on fitness to undertake safety critical roles.


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