Are your drivers dry?

Are your drivers dry?

Just as intoxicated workers are a danger – especially when operating power tools or heavy machinery – intoxicated delivery drivers endanger both themselves and other road users. Ensuring both in-house and outsourced drivers remain alcohol-free on the road is a critical risk mitigation measure companies must take, writes Rhys Evans, MD of

Whether on the road or in the workplace, alcohol testing is required by law for the safety of others. When the road is the workplace for businesses that contract drivers to collect, deliver, or fulfil orders, it is essential these companies ensure a strict alcohol testing procedure is in place.

Not only is it important to prevent harm to drivers, other road users, and vehicles, but it is also critical to prevent the reputational damage that will follow if a driver is involved in an accident and is found to be intoxicated. This implicates the company making the delivery, and the cost of reputational damage is much higher than just medical bills and vehicle repairs.

No place for alcohol in the workplace

Consuming alcohol has negative impacts on coordination, sight, speech, and reaction speed, any of which can be exceptionally hazardous when that individual is operating machinery or driving a vehicle – whether on four wheels or two. Employees under the influence of alcohol are a danger to themselves, others, and their employer.

According to the South African Labour Guide, 20 to 25% of workplace injuries are attributable to employees under the influence of alcohol, while a recent World Health Organization Global Status Report on Road Safety noted that at least 60% of South African road deaths are caused by alcohol consumption.

Delivering safely

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing measures, many South Africans have switched to online shopping. E-commerce in South Africa has matured rapidly as a result, leading to higher numbers of delivery and courier drivers on the road, which in turn means a greater risk of accidents.

A clear company policy that communicates a zero-tolerance approach to alcohol consumption is necessary whenever employees are on the road. This policy must provide details on how it will be enforced, along with the consequences of failure to comply. This approach is generally achieved through workplace breathalyser testing.

Where a company outsources deliveries to on-demand drivers, it should still be that company’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its deliveries. This extends to ensuring drivers are tested for alcohol when collecting orders from the company. When drivers make return trips to pick up new orders, it is essential that they are tested for alcohol on their breath before being allowed to get back on the road.

Through consistent, regular testing it is possible to have a deterrent effect, in that drivers are discouraged from consuming alcohol during working hours, knowing that they’re likely to get caught on their rounds.

A simple solution

When a driver reports to pick up a package, they should be tested on a rapid test breathalyser, either by the person doing the handover or by a supervisor. The process is simple and takes less than 10 seconds, ensuring a sober driver is going back onto the road. Courier, transport, and logistics companies require their workers and drivers to be tested for alcohol before allowing them on the road. Why should drivers delivering parcels on behalf of retailers not be held to the same level of road safety?

The dangers of alcohol and accidents

When an employee is injured, medical costs would ordinarily be covered by the Compensation Fund or the employer’s insurance if the injury occurred during the scope and course of the individual’s job. However, if the accident results from intoxication, the employee will be barred from claiming benefits and will have to pay for medical expenses out of their own pocket.

Where there was damage to company property (such as a vehicle and its contents) the insurer will not pay out if alcohol is involved. This leaves the company with a hefty repair bill for its vehicle and possibly liability claims from third parties for injury and damages. Accidents also cost the company in downtime while the recovering driver is absent from work and the vehicle is out of action in the repair shop.

All of these costs are minor when compared to the potential cost of reputational damage if the photograph of an accident scene (showing company branding) does the rounds on social media, or appears on the front page of a daily newspaper.

Regular testing keeps everyone safe

What is the safest and most effective way of keeping drivers alcohol-free on duty? Breath testing by means of a breathalyser is fast, inexpensive, accurate, and unobtrusive. Having a zero-tolerance alcohol policy and a strict testing procedure in place is a logical means to achieve peace of mind for e-commerce companies, knowing that they’ve done everything in their power to ensure their deliveries are not being carried out by intoxicated drivers.

The method has proven to be effective in industries across the country and it needs to be implemented by online retailers as soon as possible.

Published by

SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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