Managing Occupational Road Risk
Every day of the year, more than 150 vehicles driven on company business are involved in accidents. Here we discuss what you can do to lessen the risks to your employees and business.
In the first half of this year 1790 people were killed in reported road accidents and estimates suggest that 25–30% of such fatalities are in accidents involving someone at work. Every year, there are 14,000 road deaths and serious injuries involving people at work.
Some employers believe that, providing they comply with the relevant road traffic legislation – for example, their vehicles have valid MOT certificates and their employees have valid driving licences – this is enough to ensure the safety of their employees while driving for work. Nothing could be further from the truth. The requirements of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 apply to employees driving for work. So, too, do the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Employers must risk assess their driving for work activities and manage those risks effectively within a safety management system.
In addition, the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007 applies to driving for work, and consequently charges of corporate manslaughter are possible in the event of work-related road deaths. So, too, are charges of gross negligence manslaughter against individuals.
Work-related road safety must be incorporated into an organisation’s safety management system and dealt with in the same way that all work-related risks are managed.
The essential starting point is to establish a clear policy for managing work-related road safety. Such a policy must:
- Be genuinely supported by senior personnel
- Set out clear responsibilities and roles for all those involved
- Describe the procedures and systems that need to be followed
- State the arrangements in place for monitoring compliance
- Set out the arrangements in place for monitoring the effectiveness of the policy.
Risk assessments for work-related road safety should be carried out using the same principles as any other work-related risks. There are many resources available that can help when considering the practical aspects of implementing road safety measures. Such risk assessments must consider not only the use of company-owned vehicles but also the so-called “grey fleet”: that is, the use by employees of their own vehicles for company use.
Drivers must be competent and capable of driving the vehicle they are required to drive for work. This may include holding the appropriate driving licence: organisations should make a check on this requirement on a regular basis. Additional training for drivers may also be necessary to ensure competence. This may include “defensive driving” training, or similar techniques. Online assessments of drivers are also available.
Drivers must be sufficiently fit and healthy to drive safely and not put themselves or others at risk. A recent report published by Brake, the road safety charity, found that road crashes caused by poor driver vision result in an estimated 2900 casualties each year at a cost of £33 million per year. Brake is calling for drivers to have mandatory retesting of their eyesight every 10 years after the start of their driving career. Organisations need to consider their employees’ fitness to drive, together with their eyesight.
Almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related, and these accidents are more likely than others to result in a fatality or serious injury. Peak times for such accidents are in the early hours and after lunch. Interestingly, men under the age of 30 have the highest risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
Journeys for work should be planned to include a 15-minute break every two hours. Long trips between midnight and 6am should be avoided, and organisations need to consider overnight stays to prevent driver fatigue. Organisations might also decide to implement maximum driving times for their employees unless these are already prescribed, e.g. for HGV drivers. Work schedules need to be realistic. Adverse weather conditions should also be taken into account.
Vehicles must be maintained and in a condition that is fit for use. This goes beyond the annual MOT requirements for vehicles, and should include regular vehicle checks together with checks for the “grey fleet”. Drivers should be provided with information that will help them to reduce risk, such as recommended tyre pressures and tyre safety.
Vehicles also need to be suitable for the purpose for which they are to be used. For example, consideration needs to be given to the carriage of goods and equipment, which may need to be safely stored for transportation. A saloon car with a small boot may not be suitable if equipment has to be stored on a back seat, as opposed to safely in a boot.
Vehicles should be properly and appropriately insured. This includes those employees using their own vehicles for business use.
There are many items and activities within a vehicle that can divert a driver’s attention away from the road. This includes operating in-vehicle devices such as CD players and satellite navigation systems, along with mobile phones, eating and drinking, etc. Organisations need clear policies on these issues.
There are many benefits to be had from incorporating driving for safety into an organisation’s safety management system. For example, time and resources are saved in terms of:
- Investigating and dealing with accidents
- Dealing with insurance companies
- Insurance premiums
- Dealing with employee injuries and medical treatment.
The successful management of occupational road risk can also reduce the chance of civil claims and fines from prosecutions.
Most of all, managing work-related road safety can save lives and avoid serious injury. The statistics speak for themselves. Driving for work is one of the most dangerous of work activities, and one that must be carefully considered and dealt with.