Q: Having read ‘Business need for greater awareness of sleep disorders at work’ (fleetnews.co.uk, June 7), I am concerned about how I can make sure my drivers get diagnosed and report medical issues to me. Our driving at work policy states that they must inform us of any medical issues but, as this article highlights, drivers may be worried about going to see their doctor for fear of losing their driving licence. Should the company introduce medical tests, and how do we go about this?
A: Your question raises an interesting point – just how much responsibility should an organisation take for monitoring the health of its employees?
I personally believe that every employer has a responsibility to its employees when asking them to drive on business to ensure that they are fit to do so. However, adopting an approach where every driver has medical tests in order to ensure that any potential risk is captured is a serious over-reaction. In addition, such a proposal is unlikely to receive a positive response from senior management.
This is not to say that a sensible, risk-based approach to driver health is not a desirable element of a fleet policy. Your own driving at work policy acknowledges this by requiring drivers to inform the business of any medical issues that may affect their ability to drive. I would want to know whether drivers need glasses to drive, for example (to ensure they have regular eye tests), or about those with back conditions, where seat comfort and adjustment is vital. This also fits well with today’s wide business focus on health and wellbeing.
As a fleet manager seeking to introduce a comprehensive driver risk strategy in a previous role, I looked at all the relevant aspects, including driver health. We concluded that we needed to focus our attention on those drivers who represented the greatest risk – typically those driving the highest annual mileages (in this case, more than 25,000 miles per annum). Our proposal was that these drivers should be offered a medical check every two years to identify any potential health issues that might arise from their extended driving. Sadly, while the HR community fully supported the proposals, it was difficult to construct a business case to obtain buy-in from senior management. I remain convinced that this is the best approach for a responsible employer.
It is probably still the case that a proposal of this kind would be difficult to get approved and, if anything, the situation is somewhat worse in that regular staff medicals in general are less common than they once were. You don’t say what your company does, but those with a strong risk culture in areas such as chemicals, heavy industry, fuel, etc. require regular medicals for staff exposed to most risk, while for the majority a simple medical questionnaire is as far as it goes.
Rather than a formal medical programme, therefore, I would suggest that you adopt an educational approach, seeking to inform your drivers about the health-related risks of driving – areas such as sleep apnoea, but also musculoskeletal risks from poorly adjusted seats, etc. This can highlight the real risks and why they need to be managed. It also underlines the fact that the driver has to take responsibility for their driving health and shouldn’t ignore problems.
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