Health & Safety
With lockdown being eased across the UK, a lot of sites across Wilson James (WJ) will start to slowly ease back into some form of normality. With this in mind, there is a real importance to ensure the vehicles are being cared for and our driver wellbeing is top of the agenda.
Here we will focus on these key factors, and address any areas that may be challenging over the coming months.
During lockdown, there may have been a period where vehicles have been parked up or, due to a decrease in site numbers, vehicle inspections may have been less frequent. The following checklist may help as a starting point for vehicles that have been out of operation for a while.
Conduct a walk-around check, looking out for any leaks, loose wires or anything that looks out of place. Before starting the engine, check for any animals that may have taken residency under the hood and ensure that there are no chewed belts, hoses or wires. When starting the ignition, check for any engine management lights or warning lights that may be indicated on the dashboard – the vehicle hasn’t been driven for a while so it may be telling you there is something wrong.
Check all fluid levels prior to starting the engine to ensure there have been no leaks and they are at the recommended levels – this includes oil, coolant, brake fluid, screenwash, fuel, etc. If the fuel was not topped up before lockdown, please check this before the first journey.
It is important to check all tyres are within the WJ recommended PSI (section 5.2 of the Driver’s Handbook). Vehicles may have been left stationary and they may have developed flat spots due to the weight of the vehicle pressing down. The mentioned flat spots usually disappear after a few miles of driving, once the tyres have warmed up and re-shaped.
Check that the brakes and handbrake are working fully. Drive forward slowly and listen for any unusual noises or jolts.
To reduce the risk of infection, interior vehicle cleaning must be in accordance with the WJ H&S Policy and Government guidelines for cleaning in non-healthcare settings. Clean the exterior to remove any dirt, bird droppings and tree sap as it may cause paintwork damage.
Driver safety and wellbeing
During the Covid-19 pandemic, one’s mental and physical health may have been affected in many different ways. It is critical to understand driver behaviour to manage risks.
Stress is a dominant area of concern during the pandemic. This may lead to distraction and accidents. Coming out of lockdown, WJ employees may have mixed feelings, such as fear (of catching the virus), anger, worry and sadness. These mixed feelings can often lead to sleep deprivation, lack of concentration and generally poor health. Managers need to be aware of these changes in mental health and should plan accordingly in the eventuality of an accident.
Workloads and fatigue
Workloads may have differed during lockdown with some sites being busier than normal. This may have increased the exposure to the virus between colleagues, clients and the public adding extra unneeded stress, which is counterproductive. Continued stress may lead to tiredness and exhaustion, so there is a real need to be mindful of the effects of fatigue behind the wheel.
Alcohol and drugs
During lockdown, alcohol sales have reportedly leapt, although some of this increase may be due to stockpiling. Yet, some of this alcohol may have been used as a coping mechanism. Managers need to remain vigilant that drivers are not under the influence of drugs and alcohol when arriving for their shift, maintaining random drugs and alcohol tests.
Fewer vehicles on the road may encourage drivers to drive at higher speeds, especially if they are trying to get things done quicker.
As some drivers may have been out of action for a while, this would be the perfect time to introduce some driver training and re-educate on the Drivers Handbook and reinstate best practice behind the wheel.
Now is a good time for managers to increase communications with employees and let them know their wellbeing is paramount to them and WJ. Ideally, this needs to be a two-way communication to allow the employee to believe in their ability to make changes, if and when necessary. It may also be a relief for people to talk openly about how they have been affected by the pandemic, so offering support may be a real stress relief.
Supporting our WJ drivers
The Fleet team remains available to support you where appropriate. Drivers should not feel pressured or stressed at the wheel – this leaves them vulnerable and at-risk to the many dangers of the open road ahead. Conversely, we are aware that managers may not have all the answers needed and the level of change may have affected their mental health too.
With this in mind, the Fleet team wishes to offer its full support to both the manager as well as the driver, by providing an open line to contact us about any of the above topics, or just general vehicle support.
Please feel free to email email@example.com at your convenience.
WJ Fleet Coordinator