Driving Under the Influence?

Inevitably, as our thoughts turn to the festive season most companies will, to some degree look to reinforce the Drink/Drive message to their staff.

Interestingly, few of us have taken much notice of the changes which came into effect in March 2015 with a new drug driving law in England and Wales which sets:

  • ‘Zero tolerance’ limits for 8 illegal drugs, and
  • ‘Risk based’ limits for 8 common prescription drugs

For Companies that have a driving policy in place, it may be prudent and the right time to take a second look at what it covers.

It has been estimated by the department of transport that 18 million prescriptions are issued annually for drugs that are now illegal in England and Wales to drive with in your body, if it impairs your driving.

But how does an employer know if an employee is driving with these in their system and how many of your employees are aware of these restrictions? As an employer, you have a duty to ensure that you have communicated this sufficiently and will want to ensure that you are covered.

A good driving policy is the best place to start but make sure that your policy is regularly updated and reviewed:

  • Re-issue it to all company drivers, including commercial vehicles (cars and trucks etc.), operators of fork-lift trucks etc. annually
  • Follow up with education – toolbox talks or training – concentrate on the changes or new messages that you want to communicate.
  • Ensure that you have updated licences on file for all company drivers.

Alcohol and driving is now such a taboo that in the main this is the least problematic to deal with in the company policies and often alcohol abuse can be detected easily. Legal and illegal drugs present more of a challenge.

Drugs are now routinely tested at the roadside for alcohol and illegal substances, and this should be underlined and reinforced within the company policies – driving and disciplinary. When it comes to prescription drugs the majority of people may innocently believe that they are fit to drive. Doctors should inform patients of the drugs that fall into this category but it is important that the company is in the know as well. Employers might look to:

  • Add a section to your Back to Work form that covers the prohibited drugs and underlines the employees’ responsibilities
  • Ensure that your disciplinary policy and driving policy have a section that clearly states that employees have a responsibility to inform the company of any medical changes and to abide by any medical advice, either given by the doctor or outlined in the drug prescription and instructions.
  • Follow up with employees who are prescribed drugs to ensure that they are fit to drive, have finished the course of medicine or have been issued with a further course.

This may seem like a lot of extra work but if you include it in the policies you already have in place and use the opportunity for a refresher you may reduce the hidden risks without too much burden.

Finally, remember that driving for work does not just mean cars or commercial vehicles. Ensure all vehicles operators are made aware e.g. Forklift trucks or heavy plant.   As ever, if you need any further information then the below links are a good starting point, or contact a member of the team at New Dawn Resources.

Driving for Work – The HSE Guide

Driving for Work – Drink and Drugs ROSPA Guide