For many businesses driving is one of the highest risk activities that their employees undertake. Following the lockdown, it may be that some employees haven’t driven for a full 12 weeks, and others only in a limited capacity. They will all be returning to the roads at the same time and, since the Government has recommended that people avoid using public transport, they could be busier than ever. It’s important therefore that businesses consider the increased risks and respond accordingly.
The Government has advised people to avoid public transport to ensure social distancing is maintained. Therefore, those employees who use trains, tubes and buses to get to work may start driving. The increased road use could result in a rise in road accidents and fatalities.
More people driving on busier roads may result in employees working longer days and increase levels of fatigue. It is important that businesses review their driving for work policies and take this into consideration.
Given the length of time it may have been since some employees last drove their vehicles, they may need to re-learn some of the skills, habits and behaviours that keep them safe behind the wheel. Businesses should consider providing refresher training and guidance on safe driving techniques within their return to work training, particularly for employees whose work involves driving. This should include inspecting and checking vehicles that may not have been used in recent weeks.
Changes to the way we drive
As with everything following this lockdown, the roads are likely to be different in many areas. To encourage social distancing, many local authorities are reallocating road space in cities to pedestrians and cyclists. This could mean narrower roads, higher rates of congestion and consequently longer and more stressful journeys.
Anyone who has driven in recent weeks will also have noticed the increased number of cyclists on the roads. The combination of reduced road capacity and an increase in vulnerable road users is something drivers will need to adjust to and is likely to increase the risks faced on the road.
Changes to the way we work
The Government guidance on working safely through the pandemic recommend a number of changes within the workplace and to working patterns which may have an indirect effect on driving safely. To maintain social distancing, employers are separating teams, and introducing staggered shifts and longer working days. All of these measures could increase employee fatigue which is a common cause of road traffic accidents.
If you need any help reviewing your driving for work policies and risk assessments, please contact our health and safety management team.
By Rachel Cuff CMIOSH – Risk Consultant