We have a salesman who is doing 45,000 miles a year and is now saying he has a bad back. We have agreed with him that there is not much to be done.

Peter replies:

This sales person is in the very high risk category of driver purely because of the high mileage that he is doing; therefore the company’s duty of care is quite considerable. As we have said on many an occasion, driving is the riskiest activity that any of us will undertaken in our lives, and most of us undertake some amount of driving activity for work. Musco-skeletal disorders are currently a high priority for the HSE so it would not be wise to ignore this problem, not least because it could get a lot worse. Driving is not just potentially dangerous in terms of accidents, but it can also damage health.

There are numerous things that you should be doing:

  • Offer a short course of physio for his back, as a remedial first step.
  • Get an Occupational Health (OH) assessment on his condition and ask them for ideas on what may help.
  • Review whether the amount of mileage can be reduced by better journey planning – he may need help if he has always driven everywhere and is not a natural planner.
  • Consider requiring him to use public transport for some long journeys, where practicable.
  • Ask the vehicle dealer if they have either better seats or can advise on seat positioning/lumbar support.
  • Send him on advanced driver training and perhaps can also advise on his seating position and whatever else will reduce aches and pains for him (and others).
  • Review your driving guidance (or produce some) in the light of new circumstances.
  • Review your purchasing policy so that ergonomic seating is a clear part of the specification.
  • If all else fails then give him a different/better vehicle to see if it helps.
  • Conduct a driving risk assessment acknowledging that the amount of driving creates high risk and identifying some of the above mentioned control measures put in place to reduce the risk possibly to medium risk.

You might also educate him about better driving by changing his posture, sitting on a cushion or insisting that he stops frequently so he can move around and stretch. As most back pain is accompanied by inflammation, you could suggest applying a cold pack to reduce the inflammation and numb sore tissues. Heat helps too and it may work for him to apply heat packs or use a car seat heater. If the car has cruise control this will allow him to have both feet on the floor for periods of time. It is possible that it is stress which is causing the pain, so consider what you can do to reduce stressors in the job. Moving to an automatic gear shift may also help.

It is also likely that regular exercise outside the work environment will help his condition so he might be encouraged to do more(or less if what he does is particularly strenuous like competitive weight-lifting).

I am not saying you have to do all of the above but there are certainly numerous things that you can be doing rather than simply stating nothing can be done.

The guidance provided in this article is just that – guidance. Before taking any action make sure that you know what you are doing, or call us for specific advice.