Changes To Lockdown And Driver Wellbeing
We’ve all been looking forward to hearing the government announcement on the roadmap for coming out of lockdown. During lockdown, individuals could well have lost sleep, felt stressed and become anxious about their future and the health of their loved ones. These driver wellbeing factors could well have a negative impact on the performance of those who drive for your business.
The Health and Safety Executive research report Investigation Of The Links Between Psychological Ill Health, Stress And Safety from 2006 gives detail on how psychological health can affect safety https://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr488.pdf.
High stress levels are linked with increased rates of accidents and poor driving behaviour, with individuals making more errors and rushing. Another study has linked stress to transient depression and subsequent higher rates of driving accidents. This issue appears to be due to being distracted, feeling aggression and feeling rushed as well as having less ability to control thoughts and actions.
Anxiety is a common psychological issue and common in the UK working population. This issue can often result in a lack of control over negative thoughts and research has linked this with a drop in driving performance.
Anxiety can affect an individual by reducing their driving competence, this includes making an increased number of errors and interpreting information as threatening. Steps to reduce anxiety include being more mindful of breathing rate and slowing breathing down, focusing on the journey and route planning etc.
Lack of Sleep and Fatigue
Fatigue could be a common issue for those returning to work from lockdown. It has a negative effect on visual perception, distractibility, reaction time and concentration. Fatigue can also make decision making impaired and can make an individual indifferent to their performance. All these issues are unwanted characteristics in an employee, particularly when they are behind the wheel.
Guidance for Fleet Operators
There are plenty of actions for managers and supervisors to take in respect of reducing the driving risk introduced by stress, fatigue and anxiety. They will need some thinking through and communication on psychological health across the business will need to improve. Here are some suggestions to consider now before employees get back to work:
- Develop your health and safety approach to ensure that it acknowledges work related stressors. This could include:
- Developing a supporting culture for reporting mental ill health
- Carrying out a stress at work risk assessment in relation to staff coming back from lockdown
- Considering the impact of organisational changes and job uncertainty
- Including state of mind as a consideration in general risk assessments
- Increasing communication on welfare issues
- Ensure that managers are aware of the link between psychological health and fleet safety so they can:
- Include driver wellbeing questions in accident investigations
- Understand how to act on observed behaviours that could indicate mental ill health
- Spot signs of stress, fatigue or drug and alcohol abuse
- Brief staff on getting back to work and the workload
- Education of drivers on the effects of their state of mind on their driving performance to enable:
- Improving the self awareness of employees in respect of the impact of their mindset on driving performance
- Drivers to stop and evaluate their state of mind to avoid driving when their mindset is not commensurate to safe driving
- Consider introducing a buddy system to allow employees to talk about their concern more freely
- Give support so staff can talk about how the pandemic affected them
So most of us are looking forward to getting back to life somewhere like it was before the pandemic. The lockdown period, however, has increased the likelihood of your employees coming back feeling fatigued, anxious and stressed. This will result in drivers being likely to be distracted, more likely to overact to the driving errors of others and more likely to drive without due care. Developing an open culture which encourages employees to talk about their state of mind will allow a management team to provide support and better prevent vehicle collisions caused by stress, anxiety or fatigue.