Only a quarter of businesses with staff who drive for work have measures in place to monitor the mental health of employees, despite the suicide rate for van drivers being 25% higher than the national average.
According to Driving for Better Business – a government-backed campaign that encourages employers to put in place effective health interventions for drivers – the increased demands placed on van drivers because of a surge in online shopping deliveries during the lockdown, as well as the lack of social interaction and unpredictable journey times that come with the role, are having a severe effect on van drivers’ wellbeing.
Lone working and mental health
According to its survey of 150 SME business owners and 150 decision-makers in large organisations that employ drivers, only 27% had arrangements in place to monitor the mental health of operational staff and just 26% could monitor the mental health of furloughed staff.
Thirty-two per cent were concerned about employee mental health, rising to 39% among SMEs, while just 25% were providing employees with mental health resources during Covid-19.
Dr Paul Jackson, chartered psychologist and fatigue risk management specialist, said: “During the Covid-19 crisis, van drivers have experienced a considerable growth in demand for their services. This demand has exacerbated two key issues, fatigue and stress, that combine to cause poor mental health and impact on wellbeing.
“Additional demand is likely to have a significant impact on workload. For van drivers, the risks associated with fatigue and stress are particularly problematic, as they are at risk of working long hours, in isolation and with little oversight from their employers.
“To overcome these challenges, there is a shared responsibility for employers and employees to manage risks and protect the mental wellbeing of those who drive for work. Employers must look at their standard operational practices and ensure workers are given the opportunity to obtain sleep and rest in order to drive safely. In turn, employees must use this opportunity to rest sufficiently and ensure they are fit to drive.”
Simon Turner, campaign manager at Driving for Better Business said: “On Blue Monday [18 January] , we’re raising awareness about the mental health challenges van drivers are facing on a daily basis. Our research shows that, although there is a good level of awareness at board level on mental health challenges, there is work to be done in communicating and signposting resources to support employees within the workplace.”
The organisation has partnered with the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) to produce 20,000 packs with information about mental health resources that can be distributed to drivers. The packs are available online.