Monday, January 15, 2018

Drink and Drugs Post a Threat to Road Haulage Companies and the Transport of Freight

Employers Must Have a Policy to Ensure Safety in the Workplace and On the Road
Shipping News Feature
UK – Long term readers will know we have been banging on about the perils of mixing alcohol or drugs with the carriage of freight for almost a decade. Most modern HGV drivers are aware that drinking anything the day before they are on the road has the potential to deprive them of what, these days, is likely to be a very good livelihood in the road haulage industry. In 2009 we illustrated the advantages of Alcolock's and similar devices which simply prevent anyone under the influence from starting a vehicle.

The problems of course never actually go away, and we saw a tightening of the laws in 2015, five years after the report by Sir Peter North which highlighted a significant problem with drink, drugs and driving in modern Britain. The improving breath testing technology has led many companies, including some road haulage outfits, to introduce random or mandatory drug and alcohol tests. However what happens when an employee returns a positive test? What are the employer’s responsibilities to his customers, staff and under the law?

There is no simple answer to this question, whilst the taking of drugs or turning up at work under the influence of alcohol should never be acceptable, every employer needs to have in place a properly balanced and well thought out response to each individual case. If the employer construes a member of staff’s actions as gross misconduct then this better be stated clearly in the contract of employment given the erratic judgements often passed down by employment tribunals.

Many employers are starting to lean more towards implementing best practice testing policies and procedures as part of their health and safety standards. The next step is to ensure they aren’t simply trying to make a problem ‘disappear’ by handing over a P45, but are educated enough to recognise and deal with addiction and help individuals on the road to recovery, particularly in those cases where someone may have a degree of mitigation, such as a family tragedy.

Regular or random screening programmes mean many companies have found that adopting a testing strategy has resulted in benefits such as lower absenteeism, a decrease in staff turnover and, of course, a safer working environment, and now a supplier of alcohol testing and breath controlled vehicle immobiliser equipment, AlcoDigital, has teamed up with Broadway Lodge, a rehabilitation centre, to assist staff members from a variety of companies in getting past their problems. Having witnessed hundreds of people who have been helped thanks to funding from their employer. Caroline Cole, interim CEO at Broadway Lodge, said:

“We are predominantly funded through statutory sources, receiving referrals from local authorities. We also accept private clients who may fund their own treatment or be funded through their employer or a sponsor. Unfortunately, only 2% of people requiring treatment for drug dependency are offered the chance of funded residential rehabilitation. We are actively seeking to diversify our funding mix so we can offer our life-saving programmes to as many people as possible. Partnering with companies, such as AlcoDigital, is just one of the ways we are hoping to achieve that.”

Logistics is an industry in which the impairment of faculties means a much greater degree of risk, both to the person concerned but also to the general public or other co-workers. This is particularly relevant when one considers a heavy goods vehicle driver but also has connotations for someone employed in a warehouse environment with fork lift trucks and other mechanical handling and sorting equipment constantly in action.

The answer then is for a properly planned programme of testing, after a consultation with staff to ensure everyone knows the reasons behind it. Thought should be given to the possibility of preventing vehicles from operating if the driver has any alcohol on their breath using one of the proprietary systems (as is common in some Scandinavian countries), and ensuring that, should it be necessary to take disciplinary action, the stages have been clearly laid out and illustrated to all staff members.