Occupational road risk

by : MikeLloyd

What do you need to know?

Companies can no longer take the risk of ignoring their responsibilities with regard to managing the risks associated with 'driving at work' Employers incorrectly assume that provided they comply with road traffic law requirements, for example company vehicles have a valid MOT and fleet drivers hold a valid driving licence, this is enough to ensure the safety of their employees, and others, when they are on the road.

What is the current Legislation?

The Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 requires you to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of employees while at work.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992, amended in 1999, employers 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. This includes work-related driving activities.

Employees driving on company business are considered to be undertaking a work activity and the vehicle they are driving, regardless of ownership, is regarded as a place of work.

The Health and Safety Commission recently issued a series of guidelines covering the employer's responsibility towards the employee. This included the recommendation that every company appointed a director to look after health and safety - including driving at work.

Health and Safety law does not apply to commuting, unless the employee is travelling from their home to a location for business purposes, which is not their usual place of work.

Why is there a spotlight on this issue?

The Government has clearly indicated that it intends to pursue a policy of reducing road traffic accidents and has set tough targets. Research has confirmed that individuals driving on company business are more likely than other road users to be involved in an accident resulting in death or serious injury. Therefore there is an increasing focus by the authorities on work related driving. Existing Health and Safety legislation is now more likely to be used in a bid to reduce the accident toll. Companies are now more likely to be investigated by the police and HSE in the wake of a serious road traffic accident.

What do you need to do?

In simple terms you should have a safety management system for driving at work just as you would for any other work related activity. This should include:

Comprehensive road safety policies supported by top management.

Road safety management procedures, including risk assessments for both drivers and specific driving tasks.

Maintain and review accident statistics. Look for common trends and risks.

Implement safe practices that eradicate or minimise identified driving risks.

Ensure managers understand their role and responsibilities for managing road risk and are able to apply company policy.

Ensure drivers are given relevant information, training and supervision to be safe on the road.

Regularly audit the safety of journeys and amend policies and procedures accordingly if new risks are identified.

Does this include the use of private vehicles?

Ownership of the vehicle is irrelevant. Companies have the same liability for individuals who drive their own vehicles on company business as those who drive company owned fleet vehicles. Don't be fooled into thinking that by abandoning the traditional company car in favour of cash for car alternatives you can get rid of your duty of care - you can't.

In some respects the risks associated with the use of privately owned vehicles are greater. This is because you have less control over things like maintenance, tyres and suitability of the vehicle for the task.