The Effect of Fasting on Fitness to Drive

Those who practice many religions and faiths may spend time fasting. The most significant of these fasts is during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The RSSB has produced research and guidance on the effects of fasting.

In 2015, the Rail Safety & Standards Board (RSSB) produced a report called Effects of Fasting on Fitness to Drive.


The report executive study states:

Recommendations given to train drivers to help them ensure optimal fitness for duty in all conditions usually fail to consider that there may be circumstances or times in the year where these recommendations may be difficult or even impossible to universally implement, be it related to maintaining healthy sleep patterns or sufficient hydration levels in hot weather.

The constraints imposed by the observance of fasting certainly constitute such special circumstances. Although the fasting practice does exist among the followers of other religions, the period of fasting in Islam, the month of Ramadan, is significantly longer, and Muslims are entirely prohibited from eating or drinking during the day. They are de facto likely to adopt different sleeping patterns than during ordinary times.

Fasting can have a range of effects on individuals, including fatigue (tiredness), dizziness, dehydration and headache, sleepiness, and reduction in concentration which can result in safety concerns, especially when conducting safety critical jobs. There exist some specialised advice for both employees and employers, provided by different organisations or forums, in order to assist with managing the fasting practice during working shifts.

For employees, some of the most significant recommendations include: communicating with managers and colleagues to reduce demanding tasks during the fasting period, using available flexibility arrangements to reduce working hours and the number of working days during the month of Ramadan, considering flexibility at work regulations to formalise their flexibility arrangements during the month of Ramadan, and accessing health advice available on relevant sources such as the NHS Direct website.

For employers, a number of practices which are in place in some countries or are recommended by some relevant organisations include:

  • Providing relevant health and well-being guidance to employees.
  • Having a Ramadan policy in order to set out the standard expected of the employees, as well as the flexibility arrangements available to the employees to assist them during the fasting periods.
  • In some countries with significant proportion of Muslims, working hours are reduced during the month of Ramadan. To be fair to all employees where the majority of them are not fasting, those who observe Ramadan may be required to make up for the reduced hours within a year.