In December last year, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched its Health and Work Strategy in view of the widespread prevalence of work-related stress injuries and illnesses, which are estimated at 1.3 million workers for 2015/16. Added to this is the economic burden that work-related illnesses can bring, with costs estimated at £9.4 billion for the same period.
The HSE has decided to focus on three key areas in its strategy: occupational stress and related mental health issues, musculoskeletal disorders and occupational lung disease. They have produced 19 sector-specific plans which cover its health and safety performance, the top three priorities for the sector in the next 3 to 5 years and the actions they propose to take to get there.
We look at their plan for the Logistics & Transport sector and how to ensure your fleet compliance policy meets these objectives.
The HSE’s Logistics & Transport Plan
The HSE’S Logistics & Transport plan covers road haulage, distribution centre, postal and courier services, ports, airports and hubs.
For an industry where lifting and long hours on the road feature heavily for most workers, it is perhaps unsurprising that the HSE reports non-fatal injuries as being almost double the average for all sectors and that musculoskeletal disorders are 50% higher - with a particularly high rate found amongst the postal and courier sector.
Their three main priorities for the freight and logistics sector are:
- To reduce the impact of poorly controlled loads
- Reducing the incidence of ill health arising from musculoskeletal disorders
- Increasing engagement with work related road risk (WRRR)
Fleet compliance: how to eliminate the risks
Ensure correct packaging, securing and marking of loads
Gov.org.uk provides a number of useful tips on how to ensure the proper loading of your vehicles, which include:
- Selecting the correct vehicle type.
- Loading the vehicle properly, with the load resting against the headboard and as low to the centre of gravity as possible.
- Choosing the most appropriate securing method.
- Using adequate load restraint (this is often underestimated).
- Ensuring any incidents or near-misses are reported back, so that lessons can be learned from these.
Ensure that your drivers are provided with supportive seating, adequate breaks and welfare
Driving on the roads for long hours can take its toll - not just on the body, but the mind too. Mental health issues are not a specific focus area for logistics and transport but they are one of the key priorities for the Health and Work Strategy in general.
For vehicles over 3.5 tonnes you are generally required to fit tachographs, which monitor your drivers’ hours to ensure that they are taking breaks when required. However, many fleets choose to install telematics software to keep track of driver behaviour, even if it is not required by law. You should also ensure that your drivers have access to rest facilities on their breaks and that your route optimisation takes account of these factors.
When choosing vehicles, ensure that the seats are ergonomically designed to provide comfort and help prevent back injuries (e.g. taking account of the driving position and control accessibility). It is best practice to involve drivers in decisions about seat design, where possible. You should also ensure that you provide drivers with guidance and training on correct posture as part of your fleet compliance plan.
Provide a culture that promotes adherence to Work Related Road Risk (WRRR)
Managing WRRR starts with good vehicle design and continues with investment in driver awareness and training. There are a number of initiatives that seek to address the many issues that can arise from inadequate vehicle safety design, such as the Safer Lorry Scheme, TfL’s WRRR and the Direct Vision Standard. All of these are moving in one direction: towards improved safety features.
To demonstrate a commitment to WRRR, many fleets choose to become FORS or CLOCS accredited. Both of these stipulate minimum vehicle standards that need to be achieved and also assist with driver training issues. CLOCS also offers free online toolkits to assist fleets with enhancing their WRRR procedures.
It can be difficult for fleets to keep up-to-speed with the latest ergonomic designs and vehicle safety features, as technology and legislation is changing at such a fast rate. In light of these fleet compliance challenges and the uncertainty that has arisen in the wake of Brexit, we are seeing an increasing interest from those looking to move from owner-operated fleets to commercial vehicle hire so that they can access the latest technology without the capital investment. To find out more, speak to an expert.