Look after what you have - drivers' sleep education
With the huge problems associated with the supply of qualified and experienced haulage drivers it would be easy to overlook driver health. The drivers currently available need to be in the best possible health to be able to weather the pressures and demands of the role.
Drivers' alertness levels are a critical safety issue. As Brake - the road safety charity report - Fatigue is a major cause of road crashes & could be as dangerous as drink driving.
Fatigue accumulates from activity. There are of course rules for driver hours, intending to mitigate activity fatigue.
Fatigue and alertness is also affected by quantity and quality of sleep. It is being revealed in the SHIFT study that drivers experience serious indicators of actual or potential ill health that will impact quality and quantity of sleep - obesity, anxiety, diabetes.
Professional driving brings with it systems and processes that mean it is much harder for drivers to prioritise their health and be able to implement strategies to improve health. Additionally, the culture, expectations, attitudes and driver health awareness will all influence drivers being able to have great health and health indicators.
For me of particular interest is sleep because of the safety critical associations and if sleep is improved the likelihood of other health problems getting better will be enhanced. Take for example obesity. Obesity is strongly associated with sleep problems and diagnosed sleep conditions such as obstructive sleep apnoea. Anxiety and depression are nearly always accompanied with sleep difficulties.
A starting place for this is education for drivers about sleep, how to try and get restorative rest, when to seek a medical GP or sleep specialist assessment due to sleep problems, what treatment is available from the NHS including non-medication treatment. This last aspect of knowing when to seek medical assessment is important when linked with the obesity levels in drivers and obstructive sleep apnoea.
Drivers' fatigue and sleep must be strategic priority.
What can be done?
Make it ok for drivers to indicate they feel too fatigued to drive.
Make it ok to talk about mental health and difficulties with this.
Raise awareness of the critical driver health and fatigue issues.
State your intention with regards to driver health and wellbeing.
Provide driver sleep education that includes indications of when and how to access medical & sleep specialist assessment.
Consider the sleep environment and what can be done to ensure it is encourages sleep.
Have an easy reporting system for drivers to declare why sleep has been an issue.
Provide driver general health education.
Create a place for drivers to discuss and share health promoting ideas.
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