Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar and is a period during which participants observe strict rules that include fasting from food or water between sunrise and sunset. This year, it will start on the evening of Monday 12 April, and end on Monday 12 May.
There are over 3.3 million Muslims in the UK. Throughout the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims will refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours, around 19 hours. They may also pray during the night, so possibly sleeping for only a few hours.
It’s important for employers and managers to consider any possible impacts in the workplace and behind the steering wheel. Not eating or drinking during the day can sometimes lead to low blood sugar levels and dehydration. When combined with potential disturbances to usual sleep routines, it could mean that some employees may suffer from reduced concentration, tiredness, headaches and feeling lightheaded during the working day.
As part of their duty of care, it’s advisable for employers to carry out a risk assessment for anyone observing Ramadan to ensure their safety, and the safety of work colleagues and members of the public. This can be especially important where employees are operating machinery or driving vehicles.
Road safety risks
Road safety studies show that low levels of concentration can affect our reaction times and awareness behind the steering wheel, including reading road signs, speeding, and braking. Tiredness can also be a factor in increased impatience with other drivers and road rage.
Fleet managers should be aware of these types of risks and may want to have workplace conversations around how observing Ramadan could affect driver behaviour.
Risk management may also include:
– Manage schedules to reflect the effect on drivers who are observing Ramadan, recognising that long journeys may be more challenging
– Encourage drivers to take regular breaks and ‘power naps’ if necessary
– Give some refresher training on defensive driving and keeping a safe distance away from the vehicle in front (to reduce the risk of a rear end collision, one of the most common and costly crash types)
– Where possible, allow workers to avoid travelling to and from work at peak commuting times
Information about Ramadan should also be communicated to non-Muslim employees to encourage a positive, supportive and safe working environment. You may also want to consider allowing Muslim drivers a few days to return to normal patterns of working after Ramadan.