If the nature of employees work means that they are required to drive then their employer must make sure they follow certain regulations. Employers’ responsibilities with regards to occupational road safety are really important. For employers to correctly manage risks to their employees who use vehicles requires much more than following the latest road traffic legislation.
More than 25% of all RTAs (road traffic accidents) involve someone that is driving because of their work (figure from the Department for Transport).
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
This act requires the employer to follow the necessary steps for the health and safety of employees as well as other people who might be affected by employees’ activities when they are at work. This means they also have responsibilities when employees are riding or driving at work, either this is in a company car, lease a car, or the person’s own car or vehicle.
Driving will always come with risks and these can never be controlled and eliminated completely. However, it is an employer’s responsibility to take reasonable steps in managing the risks associated with driving and to do all that is reasonably practical so that people are protected from harm, just like they are in other areas of the workplace. In this instance ‘reasonably practical’ means that the risk level is balanced against the control measures in terms of time, money, or trouble. If these are disproportionate by a large amount, you don’t need to take action.
Health and Safety – The Law
The law requires both self-employed people and those who employ others to make sure that the welfare, health and safety of employees are not at great risk when they are working. It is also the employer’s responsibility to make sure that other people are not at risk by the work that employees carry out.
This law applies to all work activities that are on the road. With the work-related road safety managed effectively, employers can expect it to result in:
- Fewer incidents and driver injuries
- A reduction in ill health that is related to work
- A reduction in employee stress and an improvement in morale
It must be mentioned, however, that this law doesn’t apply to workers as they are commuting (travelling from home to their normal place of work). If, though, they are travelling from home to a place that is not their usual place of work, then it does apply.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations from 1999 requires all employers to carry out risk assessments with regards to their employees’ health and safety when they are working and includes other people that might be affected by employees’ activities at work. This also incorporates any driving on roads. These regulations also mean that the company’s risk assessments need to have periodic reviews to make sure they remain valid. It’s essential for employers to consider road risks to employees in the same light as other risks in the workplace.
Managing Driving Risks
It is impossible for employers to exercise the same level of control when employees are driving or riding vehicles on the road as they would in the workplace. That said, there are steps that employers should take to reduce risks for their employees.
Road safety for employees can only have effective controls if it is part and parcel of occupational health and safety management. For example, when employers are planning driving schedules, they need to account for their employees’ total number of working hours and not just the hours that they spend driving.
The Health and Safety Executive website has a risk section that has practical advice on the risk assessment procedure and also has web links to useful free publications.
Benefits to well-managed road safety in the workplace
With the right strategies and plans in place, a company will see many benefits to their robust systems for occupational road safety no matter their size. For example, a thorough and detailed policy and practice will mean the company has:
- Fewer days of absence because of accidents and injuries
- Fewer cars or vehicles to repair due to collisions
- Fewer orders missed
- Fewer RTA claims made against them
- A reduction in the time-consuming process of follow-ups and investigations.
Assessing the Risks
When assessing risks, employers should involve workers as necessary and be aware when they might need to seek specialist help if they don’t have the right knowledge or experience. The aim of a risk assessment is to identify and take sensible steps to control work-related driving risks. The idea is to make the risk of a person being killed or injured as low as it can be.
It’s important to seek the expertise of the workforce, especially those involved in being on the road, as they will have the first-hand experience of the job and might perhaps have a greater knowledge of the potential risk areas.