Driving at Work

Employer’s duty of care of employees driving at work

A brief summary of the relevant legislation is shown below.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
This act requires you to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all employees while at work. You also have a responsibility to ensure that others (non-employees) are not put at risk by your work related activities. Driving while at work in such an activity.

Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Under these additional regulations you have a responsibility to manage health and safety effectively. You need to carry out an assessment of the risks to the health and safety of your employees, while they are at work, and to other people who may be affected by their work activities. The Regulations require you to periodically review your risk assessment so that it remains appropriate. You must keep a record of the risk assessment and any measures implemented.

Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007
For the first time, companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care. The act came into effect in April 2008.

Prosecutions will be of the corporate body and not individuals, but the liability of directors, board members or other individuals under health and safety law or general criminal law, will be unaffected. And the corporate body itself and individuals can still be prosecuted for separate health and safety offences.

In determining culpability the jury may consider the extent to which the evidence shows that there were attitudes, policies, systems, or acceptable practices within the organisation that were likely to encourage failures in respect to existing health and safety legislation or guidance causing a gross breach of their duty of care.

Health and Safety Offences Act 2008
The effect of this Act was primarily to increase penalties and provide courts with greater sentencing powers for those who are found in breach of health and safety legislation. The new powers came into force in January 2009. The effect of the Act is to:

  • Raise the maximum fine which may be imposed in the lower courts to £20,000 for most health and safety offences;
  • Make imprisonment of management an option for more health and safety offences in both the lower and higher courts;
  • Make certain offences, which are currently heard only in the lower courts, heard in either the lower or higher courts.

Other legislation of note
There are other legislation and regulations which apply to all road users. These are typically heavily focused towards the driver, who will bear the greatest burden of responsibility. The Road Traffic Act and Construction and Use Regulations are examples. Although these primarily focus on the driver, under ‘cause or permit’ principles the company should not either cause or knowingly permit an employee to breach these regulations.

The major risk to organisations now is the increased potential for civil actions against them where it can be proved that the organisation was negligent in its health and safety obligations and therefore its duty of care, with the prospect of very significant fines or payments of compensation.

 

Developing safe driving policies and systems

Follow these four steps to develop your policies and systems.

1. Gain management commitment
In order to begin the process senior management need to accept the important role that driving and vehicles play in your organisation. It may help to have a general statement from the head of the company sent out to all employees expressing their desire to create a safe driving culture within the business and the need for everyone within the organisation to fully support the endeavour.

2. Identify key people
Decide who is going to be involved in the development of your policy. People such as fleet managers, human resource managers, H&S managers and industrial relations managers may be suitable. Others could be employees with a particular interest in road safety issues. Involving employees in the policy development stage will ensure their ideas and input are considered. A consultative and collaborative approach will lead to greater acceptance of the policy at the implementation stage. Ideally, appoint a manager to co-ordinate the development of the safer driving policy and control system.

3. Develop a policy and a control system suited to your organisation, targeting key road safety issues
Since no two organisations are the same, you will need to devise a Safe Driving Policy and System that suits your particular needs and meets your organisation’s specific activities and priorities. However, since most risks associated with driving at work and indeed in general are well known within the driver training profession it makes sense to use any existing information in this regard (with or without modification) and combine this with any specific to your needs.

Identifying specific driving activities/risks: Your fleet’s accident/insurance claims and repair claims can guide the development of your policy in respect to identifying specific risks related to your business. Assess the typical types and length of vehicle journey undertaken, what types of vehicles are used and are any particular manoeuvres or other vehicle related activities involved. Discover if any members of your staff have concerns about driving at work or indeed any ideas of what might be done to improve road safety at work. From this you can identify any specific risks related to driving in your business.

Identifying general driving activities/risks: A lot of research and statistical information exists to guide the development of policy, procedures and reporting to minimise some well know driving risk areas. To help you we have listed below the more common areas were policy, procedures and guidance may need to be established:

Managing driver risk:
Safe driving a condition of employment
Ensuring new recruits are competent and legal
Continual road safety education programme
Periodic eyesight, health and fitness to drive checks
Periodic driver assessment and/or training
Periodic license checking for traffic violations
Better driving incentive scheme

Traffic violation reporting
Incident near-miss reporting
Accident and bump reporting
Fatigue reporting
Unsafe to drive reporting
Complaints of poor driving reporting

Distractions and inattention
Fatigue and tiredness
Impairment
Road rage, stress and frustration

Hazard perception and awareness
Vulnerable road users
Defensive/advanced/eco driving
Driver and passenger ergonomics and safety
Maintaining a safe distance
Speed awareness and control
Skid avoidance and control
Bends
Overtaking
Priorities
Crossing traffic and emerging
Positioning, merging and lane changes
Parking
Reversing
Blind spots
Breakdowns
Traffic signs

Managing vehicle risk:
Procurement of safer and/or more eco-friendly vehicles
Regular vehicle safety checks
Tyre replacement strategy
Vehicle servicing and maintenance
Vehicle sympathy and smoking
Vehicle and personal safety/security
Vehicle familiarity and driver experience
Vehicle insurance coverage and none work usage
Vehicle maintenance defect/abuse reporting
Vehicle loading/unloading and securing loads
Vehicle towing
Passengers, hitch-hikers and other drivers
Carrying safety equipment
Carrying vehicle spares
Car hire requirements
Use of employee vehicles for work and insurance

Managing journey risk:
Journey avoidance
Safer alternative travel
Journey preparation and planning
Journey familiarity and driver experience
Journey time and distance limits
Journey breaks
Adverse weather and traffic conditions
Hazardous journey reporting
Driving abroad

Managing journey risk:
Establish site traffic procedures
Site layouts and signs

Responsibilities:
The policy should clearly outline the responsibilities of employees and management. The policy should have a general statement clearly committing the organisation to a safer driving culture and outline both management and driver responsibilities. In particular management should lead by example and ensure a system is in place to ensure all vehicles used for work are fit for purpose, all journey routes are safe, and all drivers are competent, legal and aware of their responsibilities. Drivers are responsible for following the organisations policies, procedures and guidance. It is also management’s responsibility to ensure as much as it is reasonably practical that such policies, procedures and guidance are followed and if not to show appropriate action has been taken to rectify the situation. This often forms part of the organisations disciplinary procedures. Many organisations produce an employees driving at work handbook that encompasses much of the above information.

4. Gather support and implement
Consultation is the key to a successful Safe Driving Policy and System. Once the draft has been developed, consider making it available to staff for comment. This will ensure their future support. Also identify which key decision makers will need to support the new approach and its implementation throughout your organisation.

Recognition of individual or group involvement will help promote employee support and ownership of the Safe Driving Policy and System. Consider linking the employee performance appraisal process i.e. rewards or incentives for accident-free drivers or conversely disciplinary procedures for driving or policy violations etc.