While you may be sitting in a vehicle for a good part of your working day, driving jobs can be very physically demanding. The impact of your job on your physical wellbeing can have far reaching implications, so it is important to take care of your physical health, understand your rights, and know how to report concerns to your employer to help avoid long-term problems.
How do driving jobs affect your physical wellbeing?
To fulfil your role as a Driver, you need to be fit and healthy, but you should also understand how the job itself can affect your physical wellbeing and, how that in turn, can affect other aspects of your life. Incurring an injury at work could mean having to find a different job as well as needing to adapt your lifestyle and make changes to your personal life, all of which can also have a serious impact on your mental wellbeing.
Driving jobs are not only about driving, you could be responsible for basic vehicle maintenance, and you may also be loading and unloading goods. If you are a multi-drop delivery driver you will also be frequently climbing in and out of your vehicle. Therefore, there are many physical aspects involved in driving jobs, including strength, agility, quick reflexes, good eyesight and alertness. As a result, your physical health could be affected by things such as muscle strain, joint stiffness, back problems, eye strain and tiredness.
What are your rights as a Driver?
It is important that you understand the requirements prior to taking on a driving job, and that you are able and fit to take on those duties. Driving jobs have a big emphasis on road safety so you must report any health conditions that could affect your ability to drive.
If you are a temporary worker in a driving job you have certain rights which mean that from day one, you have the same access to shared facilities and services as permanent employees. You should be paid at least the minimum wage and, once you have been in the job for 12 weeks, you are entitled to be paid the same as a permanent employee in the same role. You also then have the right to be enrolled in a pension and receive paid annual leave. Learn more here.
Employers are responsible under Health and Safety legislation to ensure all risks are managed as far as is reasonable when it comes to driving jobs. All workers are covered by the same health and safety regulations, regardless of whether you are a temporary or permanent employee. This includes the working time regulations which govern the number of hours you can drive in any period, and the rest breaks you must take. These rules vary depending on the type of vehicle you drive and the country you drive in. You can find more detail on the government website and our HGV Driver Responsibilities page explains more about the driving limits and shift patterns for HGV Drivers.
6 top tips for Drivers to take care of their physical wellbeing
1. Sit comfortably
You need to ensure you have good posture while driving, so make sure your seat is in the correct position, the back rest tilting slightly backwards and the steering wheel at a height so your arms are slightly bent, elbows and shoulders relaxed. Adjust your mirrors so you don’t have to move your head too much and position your seatbelt so it is not cutting into you.
2. Lift loads safely
Use correct lifting and carrying techniques when loading and unloading, to help prevent injuries. Before you lift heavy items, consider the size, weight, and where it needs to go. Always use your legs to lever yourself up when lifting items, don’t lift by bending your back, and use the reverse process when lowering items. Keep the load close to your waist where possible, with the heaviest side nearest to you. The NHS website has more safe lifting tips.
Take advantage of rest breaks to get some exercise. Get out of the driver’s seat and move around to stretch out your muscles, reducing the risk of back pain, whilst also improving your circulation and minimising the chance of cramps.
Driver fatigue is a real concern and our blog 'Tips for dealing with truck driver fatigue' is well worth a read. Staying alert is imperative for both your safety and the safety of others on the road, so take regular rest breaks and get the recommended eight hours sleep a night. Rest breaks are controlled by law for long distance drivers - our handy Drivers Hours infographic is a useful resource.
5. Eat well
Eating a healthy, varied diet and staying well hydrated is not only good advice for maintaining your physical health, but it can also help with staying alert. A list of 20 foods and drinks that are great for providing energy and helping improve your concentration on the road can be found here.
6. Get regular health checks
To get an HGV/LGV licence you must complete a medical exam with a qualified doctor. It is a good idea to continue with check-ups to ensure you maintain good health, including regular eye tests. Having good eyesight is vital for road safety and, for those that need them, wearing the correct glasses or contact lenses will reduce eye strain.
Steps to reporting physical challenges that may impact your role as a Driver
Where driving jobs are concerned, the organisation you are working for should have policies in place regarding how you use the road, potential risks and the measures in place to manage them, and the procedures to report any issues.
Anything that affects your driving ability can have safety implications. So, regardless of whether you are a temporary or permanent employee, it is important to report potential hazards for your own wellbeing, that of your colleagues and for other road users.
Consider the following steps:
1. Identify the problem
Is it your personal health? Is it a safety hazard on your vehicle or in the warehouse? Is an unsuitable practice being carried out? Are there unrealistic expectations such as time constraints or the weight and size of loads?
2. Know who to report it to and how to report it
In most cases you would first speak to your Team Leader or Supervisor. If this is not possible then you may need to take it up with a Manager. There may be a form to fill out in the first instance which you can pass on to the relevant member of management or the HR Department.
3. How to resolve the issue
When reporting your concern, consider the outcome you are looking for so you can suggest a solution if possible. Think about what could be done to make your job safer and what could change to improve your physical wellbeing.
Taking control of your own physical wellbeing should be a priority in any job. Taking precautions, practicing self-care, and recognising potential health hazards of driving jobs will give you the confidence to ensure issues are dealt with appropriately.
Learn more about your rights as a worker in the driving industry here.
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