There has been a lot of publicity relating to the introduction of stricter punishments for drivers committing the most serious of offences, this came into effect on April 24 and includes steeper fines for speeding.
Most employers at this point think that this is the driver’s problem, to pay all fines, etc., but many may be missing the bigger picture. Most employers think that the Road Traffic Act and Highways Act are the only laws that apply, when it comes to driving for work however, you may also have to consider health & safety law.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require every employer to carry out a Risk Assessment to the health and safety of their employees, or themselves, while they are at work, and to other people who may be affected by their work activities. Employers focus on the on-site activities, however work includes any driving activity on the road, too. Employers should consider the risks to employees on the road in the same way as for those in a workplace and, in light of the new guidance, we will be issuing all our retained clients with a new Driving at Work policy & procedure for your consideration.
The new policy is a two- way street that highlights both driver and employee responsibilities.
Drivers should be:
- competent and capable of doing their work in a way that is safe for them and others;
- properly trained;
- sufficiently fit and healthy to drive safely and not put themselves and others at risk;
Management should ensure that company vehicles should be:
- Fit for the purpose for which they are used and maintained in a safe condition and fit for the road, and;
- Provide drivers with information that will help them reduce risk (e.g. recommended tyre pressures);
One area that has been highlighted in various accident statistics and where companies are potentially leaving themselves exposed to further scrutiny and potential prosecution, is controlling their driving for work activities and in particular “Journey Planning”.
More than a quarter of all road traffic incidents may involve somebody who is driving as part of their work at the time and some of the highlighted employer factors include
- Failing to take account of appropriate routes; e.g. considering travel distances and time between jobs;
- Incorporating unrealistic work schedules;
- Putting drivers at risk from fatigue by not considering driving as a work activity;
- Failure to take into sufficient account adverse weather conditions.
For example, if one of your employees is killed while driving for work and there is evidence that serious management failures resulted in a ‘gross breach of a relevant duty of care’, your company or organisation could be at risk of being prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
It is important to note that as part of their investigations where there are fatalities or serious injuries the police will be checking mobile phone records, working hours, travel distances and analysing speed at the time of the accident, etc.
For all employers this is a sobering thought as research shows that most of the public and in particular, drivers think of motoring offences such as speeding as an accepted practice and not really breaking the law.
Employers should consider the risks to employees on the road in the same way as for those in a workplace. In light of the new guidance we will be issuing all our retained clients with a new Driving at Work policy and procedure for your consideration.