By John Cowan
The other night on my way back from yet another Labour Party meeting, I made a number of silly errors on the road – nothing major, but enough to ensure the local police stopped me on suspicion of drunk driving.
As I do not drink and drive the breath test proved negative but the officer suggested some strong coffee.
Research by the US Department of Transportation shows that between 1 and 10% of all auto accidents involve the lack of sleep.
The hours worked by HGV drivers are limited in the EU, with rest days and breaks legislated. Yet many other road users have no limits placed on their driving hours.
Next Friday (Good Friday), somewhere on the UK, road network people will be killed as a result of driving whilst too tired, having worked excessive hours.
With the current challenging economic situation some bosses will put pressure on employees to opt out of the 48 hour working time directive.
Long hours are a major health and safety issue. Major accidents such as the Selby rail disaster, where an over tired motorist crashed onto a rail line and caused a train to crash, are a classic example.
Medical research by the University of California showed that a person working a 51 hour week had a 29% higher chance of developing high blood pressure than someone working a 39 hour week.
It’s amazing that despite of all this evidence the Tories are opposed to the Working Time Directive opt-out being abolished. In fact the Tories, when in Government, opposed the entire European Social Chapter, including the Working Time Directive, minimum wage and other social protection legislation.
As yet I have not heard a commitment by Dave Cameron to support the European Social Chapter. Maybe I just missed it.
But protecting human life and health should always come ahead of profits.
In fact, profitability and workforce productivity may even be enhanced by shorter working hours. A happier workforce with reduced lost working hours from illness, accidents and stress improve the workers’ return.