Summer festival season – employers take note!
Those who employ drivers, whether it is a delivery or sales team or employees who must drive to visit clients or suppliers, generally know they have a duty of care under Health and Safety legislation to ensure those drivers are in a fit state to drive.
They are also liable should any driver be involved in a collision when they are out on work business, and, should this involve harm to a member of the public, the employer may also be vulnerable to charges of corporate manslaughter
The situation is made worse should the driver be found to have been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
While most employers have systems in place to ensure staff are aware of these issues, and usually a policy in place for regularly checking their drivers, driving licences and driving competence, often the focus will be on alcohol.
But as the summer season of open-air festivals and concerts gets under way it is timely to remind everyone that Driving Under the Influence laws cover drugs as well as alcohol. The law was updated effective from March 2015 and stiffer penalties introduced for infringement.
It is now routine for police to carry out roadside checks for both alcohol and drugs. Drivers and employers should be aware that drugs can remain in the system for a much longer time than alcohol so it is complacent to assume that the effects of that weekend festival will have dispersed overnight.
It is not only so-called recreational, though illegal drugs, that are covered
It is also important to remember that there are eight named prescription drugs (with maximum dosages) on the list of substances and that while they may be perfectly legitimate to treat a given condition, exceeding the maximum dosage, even if prescribed can result in penalties which include 12 months disqualification.
The prescribed list includes Temazepam, Diazepam, Flunitrazepam, Morphine, Lorazepam, Clonazepam, Oxaepam and Methadone.
While access to personal information is limited by the Data Protection Act, employers are still entitled to ask employees about prescription medicines if the collection of the heath information is necessary to maintain health and safety, or the collection is needed to prevent discrimination against disabled workers, or every member of staff has agreed to the collection.
Including a requirement to inform the employer about prescription medicines and regularly checking their employees, particularly drivers, should therefore be part of a monitoring policy.