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Alcohol and drug use ‘greatest concern’ among transport managers

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Fleets are being warned of the rising use of drugs and alcohol which is causing concern about impairment in the workplace.

The warning comes from medical and safety technology company – Drager Safety UK – after its research highlighted drugs and alcohol use was a prevalent concern among managers in transport and logistics.

In the report, which assesses the impact of Covid-19, Brexit and workplace culture on health and safety in UK workplaces, six-in-ten managers (61%) who work in the industry, say their organisation is extremely concerned about workplace impairment and resulting injuries and accidents due to alcohol and drug use, and that their companies include the issue in their safety procedures and policies.

A further third (32%) are quite concerned but have not yet factored the problem within their safety policy. These figures fall to 53% and 21% across all industries which took part in the research.

While concern for the impact of prescribed drugs was highest in the transport and logistics industry, this dropped to less than a half (45%) which were extremely concerned and had policies in place.

However, this means that 55% of the industry are not taking any active steps to curb the growing use of prescription medicines, Drager said. 

The Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) recently urged fleets to be ‘extra vigilant’ in managing drug and alcohol impairment.

Graham Hurst, spokesperson for Impairment at Dräger Safety UK comments: “Our research has indicated that, perhaps not surprisingly, this is a trend which is keenly felt in the transport and logistics industry.

“However, it is still concerning that more than half (55%) of transport and logistics companies do not have policies in place to manage workplace issues caused by prescribed medication.

“This suggests that there is less understanding of the side effects and risks associated with these medications.

“But as the industry faces serious driver shortages, there will be greater pressure than ever placed on existing staff.

“As a result, it’s essential that there is greater awareness of the potential issues associated with prescribed medications and that organisations make workplace safety provisions to support their employees as the country opens up once again.”

Drager said some commercial fleets, such as Hawthorne Logistics, have interlock devices fitted to their cabs so drivers have to take a breath test before their engines will start.

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) called for vehicles should be fitted with ‘alcolocks’ to reduce drink-driving, in a report published earlier this year.

ONS figures report that one-in-five adults in Britain have experienced symptoms of depression during the pandemic. At the same time, prescriptions for benzodiazepines and anti-depressants have dramatically increased, said Drager.

The side effects of the medication vary but may include drowsiness, dizziness, loss of balance, confusion, or memory loss, it said.

Road safety charity Brake states that drug driving, including prescription medication, is a factor in one-in-20 fatal crashes, and driving under the influence of cocaine or opiates more than doubles the risk of a fatal accident, while combining cannabis with alcohol increases the risk by 16 times.

The full Safety at Work Report report is available on the Drager website.

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