Both businesses and individuals put themselves at risk of enforcement action and prosecution by not addressing the issue of occupational road safety.
In 2008 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) changed its enforcement policy. As a result, if they investigate an accident or incident they will consider the entire management chain of the organisation, and the role played by individuals, and then prosecute them where appropriate; sometimes alongside or instead of the organisation itself.
The Department of Transport estimate that over a quarter of all road traffic accidents involve someone who is driving as part of their work. In a road traffic accident on the highway:
- the Police will take the lead on investigating the incident
- the Health and Safety Executive will only take over that investigation and prosecute where the police have identified that there are serious management failures that have been a significant contributing factor in the accident itself.
- Of course, should the management failure be so serious and involve a fatality the police may retain the matter to consider prosecution under the corporate manslaughter legislation.
Businesses need to manage the risks to drivers as an integral part of their health and safety arrangements. It should not be forgotten that while health and safety law does not apply to people commuting (that is travelling between their home and their usual place of work) it will apply if they are travelling from their home to somewhere which is not their usual base. Those that claim travel expenses for using their own vehicle should be treated in exactly the same way as those driving company vehicles.
Risk assessments should be carried out in the same way as other Health and Safety risks. Your business should have policies and procedures in place to cover:
- the driver: competency, fitness, health and training;
- the vehicle: its suitability, condition and safety equipment; and
- the journey: route scheduling, expectation of the time and distance that employees will travel and fatigue. If driving Heavy Goods Vehicles, the driving hours regulation and the use of taco graphs control this area. (These only apply to larger vehicles on the road and a considerable proportion of work related journeys do not relate to such vehicles.)
You must ask yourselves: have we done all that is reasonably practicable with regards to the levels of risk to employees in this area and could we demonstrate that we have effectively managed vehicle related risks?
If not, there is an increasing risk of criminal liability as well as a civil claim for damages from an employee injured whilst at work.
If you would like to discuss fleet risk management in more detail with us, please contact Ken Stevens or Ian Clayton on 01302 341 344.