drivers’ health and wellbeing by minimising risk in cooperation with an occupational health service provider,

In document Managing risks to drivers in road transport (Page 36-38)

Finland

Organisation(s): The Transport and Logistics team of The Finnish Institute of Occupational

Health, Turku

Key points

 Longstanding relationship between a haulage company and a multi-professional occupational health service provider.

 Annual meetings, which help to identify the needs of both representatives of the company and drivers.

 Well-targeted interventions.

 A team of different occupational health professionals who help organise intervention projects.

 Topics covered included fatigue and sleep disorders, support to improve diet and ergonomic issues such as loading and unloading and climbing in and out of cabs.

 Has included organisational measures such as changes to work schedules, and active support rather than just advice, for example regarding diet.

Introduction

The transport industry is characterised by irregular working hours and may include considerable night shift work. Fatigue and sleepiness are common among professional drivers, and falling asleep while driving accounts for a significant proportion of their work- related vehicle accidents. In addition to driving, working in a haulage company involves many loading and unloading activities, which may be ergonomically challenging.

The ‘Kuljettajat Kuntoon’ (Trim Truckers) project was introduced to minimise drivers’ fatigue and sleepiness and to improve their workplace ergonomics.

Aims and objectives

The main aim of the project was to promote truck drivers’ health and wellbeing by minimising their risk of fatigue and sleepiness and by improving their workplace ergonomics with the assistance of the employer’s long-term occupational health service provider.

Background

A trucking company in south-western Finland serves as a good example of the benefits of good and a long-lasting relationship between a trucking company and a multi-professional occupational health care provider. The company, which specialises in the transportation of

gravel, grit, and sand, cannot be named for confidentiality reasons. The company’s fleet comprises 40 trucks, and it employs 50 drivers. The company has a long tradition of taking care of its drivers’ health and wellbeing. For instance, it has maintained a contract with a local occupational health service provider since 1986. This provider supplies a team of health professionals comprising a doctor, a specialised nurse, a physiotherapist and a psychologist to respond to the occupational health needs of the company and its drivers. This team meets with representatives of the company on a yearly basis. Such meetings serve as a forum in which the health professionals determine whether the company has any occupational health concerns, inform the representatives of these concerns, and suggest actions for improvement.

Scope

There are three different ways in which the project tries to minimise drivers’ fatigue and sleepiness.

Firstly, the company doctor carries out physical examinations of all the drivers to detect sleep apnoea. Many Finnish professional drivers are known to be obese, which is commonly associated with sleep apnoea. Since sleep apnoea is a medical condition that can be managed with an appropriate treatment, one aim of the examination is to identify the drivers who potentially have sleep apnoea and refer them to a specialist for further diagnostic testing and treatment.

Secondly, to help ensure the drivers eat a healthy lunch, the company provides a lunch box to each driver as well as recommendations for healthy lunch box contents. To determine these recommended lunch box contents, a nutritionist is consulted. The aim of this measure is to help drivers reach and maintain optimal body weight, which is challenging for individuals who work irregular hours and night shifts.

Thirdly, an occupational psychologist provides support to the personnel management department, with the aim of improving the company’s logistics strategies so that drivers’ work schedules give them sufficient time to rest.

In order to improve drivers’ workplace ergonomics, an occupational physiotherapist visits the drivers’ workplaces and discusses ergonomic issues with them while they are working.

Particular attention is paid to the way drivers climb in and out of the cab, as multiple sprain accidents had been reported. Initially, the company’s drivers displayed a negative attitude and some resistance towards ergonomic education. Within this initiative, a driver has the right to refuse the occupational physiotherapist visit; however, it is anticipated that positive experiences and feedback will accumulate and further motivate drivers to participate in this kind of workplace education.

Outcomes and evaluation

Both the representatives and drivers of the company have been satisfied with the services of the occupational health service provider. Additionally, it has been noted that the company’s positive attitude towards drivers’ health and wellbeing has promoted a good working and safety culture among the drivers. However, the number of drivers employed is so small that it is impossible to determine whether they are significantly healthier from a statistical point of view than drivers working in other companies. Furthermore, given that occupational health is not a static situation, with new needs emerging from time to time, there is a need to develop new, responsive programmes for those needs. This project is the most recent programme and was initiated in 2006, focusing on drivers’ fatigue and sleepiness, and ergonomics.

The ‘Kuljettajat Kuntoon’ project is an ongoing process, and no final reports of its results are available yet. However, there has been benefit from the long-lasting relationship between the haulage company concerned and its multi-professional occupational health service provider. The company’s positive attitude toward drivers’ health and wellbeing has also promoted a good working and safety culture among the drivers.

Problems faced

At the beginning of the project, the company’s drivers displayed some resistance, especially towards the ergonomic training. The considerable workload of the occupational health professionals supplied by the service provider also impeded the progress of the project.

Success factors

 The company’s ongoing positive attitude towards its drivers’ health and wellbeing.

 The long-lasting relationship between the haulage company and a multi-professional occupational health service provider.

 An occupational physiotherapist visits the drivers’ workplaces instead of giving a traditional presentation to promote good ergonomic practice among drivers.

 Positive support is given to drivers, not just awareness-raising.

 Organisational measures are also taken; for example, altering schedules to make them less tiring.

Transferability

The approach and measures are transferable, but considerable resources in terms of occupational health services would be necessary to fully implement it.

Further information

Jari H. Stengård, MD.PhD, Adjunct professor

Transport and Logistics

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health

Lemminkäisenkatu 14 -18 B Fi-20520 Turku – Finland

Lääkärikeskus Mehiläinen Oy

An occupational health service provider Kauppiaskatu 8

Fi-20500 Turku - Finland

2.3.8.

‘Transport online’: an intranet and internet-based

system to manage and supervise truck drivers’ work

In document Managing risks to drivers in road transport (Page 36-38)