The gig economy: take tiredness seriously to save your life, RoSPA warns

Karen McDonnell (Head of RoSPA Scotland)

AS THE UK gig economy shows no signs of slowing, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has issued a warning to Scottish businesses and workers about driving when tired. 

In the gig economy, instead of a regular wage, workers get paid for the ‘gigs’ they do, such as food delivery or a car journey. In the UK, it’s estimated that over five million people are employed in this type of capacity.

Drivers and couriers who get their work from apps face a ‘heightened risk’ of collisions, with almost half (42 per cent) of drivers reporting vehicle damage because of a collision, according to research from University College London. Tiredness from overwork was flagged as a key risk for those delivering food and parcels, while 63 per cent reported to have not been given the appropriate safety training on managing risks on the road. One in 10 reported someone had been injured in a crash while they had been working, with scores more reporting time pressure as a key factor in their driving.[1] 

Karen McDonnell, Head of RoSPA Scotland, said:

“With the cost of living crisis continuing to bite, it’s easy to see how those in the gig economy could be overworked and tired. We know that being tired is a huge risk factor when driving, and so it’s easy to see how the roads could get more dangerous. 

“While it can be easy to say someone should cut down their hours, it’s not always as simple as that. Responsibility lies largely with the companies employing gig workers, who often have unrealistic targets and are expected to go above and beyond to deliver.”

What to do if you feel tired when driving or riding

  • When you first start to feel tired, stop and take a break
  • Stop in a safe place – make sure you’re not on a motorway hard shoulder
  • If you can, drink some coffee or another caffeinated drink
  • Take a short nap, ensuring your car is in a secure location.

What to do if you’re driving for a long distance

Even experienced HGV drivers are stopped from driving more than nine hours a day. Many drivers are not used to driving anywhere near this long, so always bear in mind:

  • Don’t drive for more than eight hours in a day
  • Take regular breaks, aiming to stop every two hours or so
  • On very long journeys, try and plan overnight breaks if you can
  • Don’t begin a long journey if you are feeling tired.

Free sleep courses for Scotland businesses

Lack of sleep doesn’t just affect driving, but overall productivity, too. And with tiredness to blame for 200,000 working days a year in Scotland, The Scottish Occupational Road Safety Alliance (ScORSA) is on a mission to change the way we think about and manage being tired. That’s why it is holding a limited series of free virtual courses for Scottish businesses relating to tiredness in the workplace and productivity on the 19 April and the 24 May. To book, businesses should visit ScORSA’s website and join for free here.

RoSPA delivers the ScORSA project  funded by Transport Scotland , as part of Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2030.

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