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Duty of Care to Employed Drivers

Following the fatal accident inquiry into the Glasgow Bin Lorry accident that killed 6 people, it was found that the driver was unconscious when his lorry veered out of control, the driver had suffered fainting episodes since 1976 and his health was central to the inquiry.

Employers should be aware that they owe a duty of care to their employed drivers and to others who may be put at risk by work-related driving activities, such as other road users and pedestrians.

What can employers do to minimise the risks?

• Use the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 to request a report from a medical practitioner (normally the candidate’s GP) on a prospective employee. Provided the individual consents, the GP is obliged to reveal relevant medical information.
• It is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 for employers to ask job applicants about their disability or health until they have been offered a job. However, employers could ask the applicant to complete a health questionnaire and if there are any areas that cause concern, the employer can refer them to occupational health to provide a more comprehensive report on the candidates ability to carry out their role.
• Any job offers should be made subject to a satisfactory medical report.
• For drivers already employed by the company, the employer can request a medical report from the employee’s GP or a report from occupational health. Employers can also carry out regular health assessments to ensure that employees remain fit to drive. This could be completed on an annual basis or sooner for those that may have specific medical issues.
• Where a medical issue raises a question over an individual’s ability to drive, employers may be under a duty to make reasonable adjustments if the employee is disabled, including considering whether he or she can be accommodated in a non-driving role if adjustments are not possible to their existing one.

Incorporating medical checks into the recruitment process and enforcing regular health assessments will give companies greater control and certainty that employees are fit to drive. Such action should be approached in a positive manner – not only to support employees but also to ensure, as far as possible, the safety of the public.