Each day there are around 150 accidents involving business-use driving on our roads. Here is some information about what you can do as an employer to minimise the risks to your employees and your business.
Every year, around 30% of road accidents involve someone driving for work purposes. Some employers think that if they comply with all road traffic regulations – e.g. MOTs certificates being up to date – then they have done enough to ensure their employees’ safety on the roads. However, this is not accurate. Employers need to be aware that the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 also applies to people who are driving as a part of their work. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also applies. This means that employers have a duty to risk assess their employees’ driving activities and manage the risks with an effective safety system and policy. Further to this, the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007 also applies to employees driving for work purposes and so employers can be at risk of being charged with corporate manslaughter if one of their employees dies while driving for work. There is also the possibility of being charged with gross negligence.
With all of this information, therefore, it is essential for employers to consider how they can manage road risks for their employees.
How can road risk be managed?
Every organisation where driving happens as a part of work needs to incorporate occupational road safety into the company’s safety management system. Occupational road safety needs to be dealt with in just the same way as other occupational risks.
Companies should start by establishing a policy that is clear for all. It should:
- Be supported by senior management
- Set out roles and responsibilities clearly for everyone involved in the policy
- Describe the systems and procedures that must be followed
- Inform everyone of the monitoring arrangements with regards to how effective the policy is
- Set out the arrangements for compliance monitoring
Occupational road risk assessments much be carried out just as any other work-related risk assessment is. The risk assessment should also consider when workers are using their own vehicles ‘the grey fleet’ alongside company-owned or hire vehicles.
Employers’ key considerations for road safety management
Since the vast majority of road traffic accidents are down to driver error (94%), employers need to consider their drivers first and foremost.
Drivers need to be capable of driving the assigned vehicle and need to be competent at the wheel. This might mean they need to hold a specific driving licence (i.e. for a goods vehicle). Organisations should have a plan in place to check drivers’ licences regularly. They should also consider training for their drivers including ‘defensive driving’ training.
Drivers should be fit and healthy so that they can drive safely and not put others or themselves at risk. Brake, the road safety charity, recently released a report that that 2900 casualties occurred due to a driver’s poor vision. This costs around £33 million each year. This charity is trying to make it mandatory that drivers have an eye test every ten years from when they begin driving. Employers should consider their driver’s eyesight alongside their fitness to drive.
Almost one-fifth of accidents occurring on major roads are due to tiredness and this type of accident is much more likely to result in serious injury or a fatality. The peak times for accidents like this are just after lunchtime and in the early hours of the morning. Men under 30 are most at risk of falling asleep while driving.
Employers should plan for work journeys to include one 15-minute break for every two hours of driving. It is advisable for organisations to try not to plan for long journeys to take place between midnight and 6 am and companies should consider drivers staying somewhere overnight to prevent drivers being sleepy at the wheel.
Employers have a responsibility to maintain vehicles in conditions that are fit for use and this is much more than just the yearly MOT. There should be a consideration for regular vehicle checks, including for ‘grey fleet’ vehicles. Drivers should also be given information to help them reduce their risks that include things like tyre safety and recommended tyre pressures.
Consideration also needs to be given towards the appropriateness of vehicles and their use. For example, if goods or equipment is being carried then a goods vehicle is probably the most appropriate rather than the back seat of a car. Insurance is also important and it is vital that employees insure their own vehicles for business use if they are using them for work purposes other than commuting.
Distractions in the Vehicle
Employers have a duty to inform drivers about distractions inside their vehicles. Such distractions include CD players, satellite navigation systems, eating, drinking, smoking and mobile phone use. There should be clear company policies on this.