Injuries in transport and storage higher than in any other sector
There is no shortage in the amount of health and safety-related legislation road transport operators have to abide by, designed to keep both employees and the general public safe while carrying out what can potentially be a dangerous job.
So it came as a surprise to The Transport Law Blog that the rate of reported injuries in the transport and storage sector in the last three years was significantly higher than the average rate across all industries.
According to the HSE, an annual average of 2,600 injuries per 100,000 workers were reported between 2012 and 2015 by businesses in the transport and storage industry.
Each year 3% of the workforce sustains a work-related injury of some sort with slips, trips and falls, and lifting and handling being the two main causes of injury, each accounting for 28% of the number of incidents reported.
Falls from height account for around 10% of injuries in the sector every year. Recent cases have included workers falling from fragile roofs or from the top of trailers.
Some 11% of injuries involve being struck by an object, including vehicles. Earlier this year a judge said the accident rate within the waste and recycling sector in particular remained one of the highest in any industry, with collisions between vehicles and pedestrians a particular issue.
Not only can injuries, depending on their severity, result in fines or prosecutions bought against a company if the employer is found at fault, they can also result in loss of business. The HSE estimates that 300,000 working days in the transport industry are lost every year as a result of an employee being injured, so there is an incentive to make sure that safety procedures at your operation are tip-top.
Ill health is also an issue in the transport sector, resulting in employees taking an average of 1.1 million days out of work every year. An annual average of 3,350 out of every 100,000 workers suffered from work-related illness over the last three-year period.
Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (Riddor), records of accidents, dangerous occurrences and specified diseases must be kept by responsible persons for at least three years.
Doctors have a duty to report driver health concerns to DVLA- but what about operators?
Draft guidelines issued by the General Medical Council last month told doctors that they have a duty to report concerns with a driver's health to the DVLA, with or without the patient’s consent.
While this is a step in the right direction, as the obligation to report medical conditions to the DVLA formerly sat with the driver, shouldn’t operators be told if their driver is no longer fit enough to get behind the wheel of a truck? The DVLA is currently under no obligation to inform the operator if its driver is unfit to carry out their duties, potentially allowing them to carry on driving without their health being questioned.
“We’re in a ridiculous situation that the employer is completely reliant on the individual to notify them that they have a medical condition,” said FTA’s lead on DVLA, Ian Gallagher. “In some cases it’s the employer’s own checks that actually highlight that entitlement has been suspended or revoked on medical grounds. Employers have no right to access medical records. Patients can even veto doctors’ letters if they don’t agree with what’s been written.” Following the Glasgow bin lorry crash in December 2014, in which six people were killed and 15 were injured when its driver fell unconscious at the wheel, drivers’ medical history has become a concern; especially as the driving workforce gets older.
The FTA is currently lobbying the DfT to give operators access to drivers’ medical records should they have concerns, which may reduce the risk of an accident occurring.
Who is responsible for doing what?
Professional drivers are responsible for informing their employer if they have a physical or mental health issue that may affect their ability to drive. They must also notify the operator of any changes to their driving licence, such as changes to their entitlement, penalty points, and disqualifications. Operators are also responsible for regularly checking their drivers’ licences using the DVLA’s Share Driving Licence system or a third party checking service. The consequences an operator could face for not checking a driver's licence or entitlements are vast, and could result in being called to a public inquiry. The importance of regular driving licence checks was highlighted earlier this year when traffic commissioner Nick Denton revoked East London-based Alan Drummond’s O-licence after the operator failed to check a driver had the correct entitlement for the vehicle he was driving. The driver was then involved in a fatal collision with a cyclist.