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2022 / 2023 Edition

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Health Authority - Drivers

With new corporate manslaughter legislation dangling the threat of an onerous prosecution over firms with staff who die while at work, there has never been a better time to take a close look at your policy on company drivers – if you have one – says former Hanson health and safety man Colin Nottage. In his latest column he offers advice on minimising risk and drafting a policy that is effective.

Around a third of all road traffic accidents involve somebody who is at work at the time. This may account for over 20 fatalities and 250 serious injuries every week. Yet many can be avoided with a little preparation.

Nine in ten collisions are said to be caused by carelessness and driver negligence and with the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 now in effect, employers could find themselves facing prosecution, huge fines and negative publicity. So it has become increasingly important to ensure you have taken every step to minimise risk.
Commercial fleet providers are already responding to this potential banana skin. Aon, for example, has just introduced its Smart Drive system which captures 30 second web-based video clips of employees’ bad driving, which can then be reviewed by a manager in order to change behaviour.

But high-tec devices such as this are only a small part of the solution. And simply ensuring company vehicles have a valid MOT certificate and that drivers hold a valid licence is not enough.

A H&S system solution

As with any work related activity, the risks should be effectively managed within a health and safety management system, and there is a range of points to consider when putting together a driving at work policy.

As a responsible manager you need to ensure that driving at work is incorporated into the company’s health and safety policy and that duties and responsibilities are clearly defined within the policy.

Suitable and sufficient risk assessments are also needed for all activities associated with driving at work. Devise a safe system of work and ensure that drivers are involved in its creation. Get their buy-in.

An area often overlooked is fitness and health. Posture, seating and headrest positions can have an effect on someone with a back condition, for example. Long periods of driving could exacerbate this.

People can often be disinclined to speak up over back problems either because they feel them not worth mentioning or because it has been associated with slacking off work. Ensure you find out. The same goes for eye problems. Medication being taken should also be revealed. They can all effect driving performance.

As well as fitness you need to ensure drivers are competent and insured and that vehicles are regularly serviced. Don’t forget to check that workers hold the relevant licences or certificates.

Mobile phones are also a big issue. Using a handset at the wheel without hands-free equipment can land a person a disqualification and a fine of up to £2,500 if driving a larger vehicle.

A recent survey of 2,000 UK motorists found 68% would like to see this sentence increased. A good reason for this tough stance was found in just over half of respondents admitting having felt endangered by drivers clearly holding their phones to their ear while driving. You don’t want this to be your employee.

The government has this to say on the matter: “The requirement for an employer to assess [mobile phone] risks applies to employees driving at-work.

“Employers need to consider the risks…They could be liable to prosecution if they require or allow employees to use a mobile phone while driving for work,” it states.

Any policy should also encourage drivers to take regular rest breaks when travelling on journeys of more than two hours at any one time. Estimates suggest that company drivers who clock up an average of 10,000miles annually have a one in seven chance of having a collision each year, so vigilance is needed.

After putting your policy in place, monitor it to measure its effectiveness. And you should also take a look at the pressures on both yourself and drivers when it comes to driving long distances.

Ask yourself a couple of questions. Are you are pressuring some staff not to stay away overnight to save on expenses? Or do you have staff members not keen on staying away overnight and so drive long hours to get home? If you answer yes to either of these it could be an issue.

Personal decisions have a large role to play in keeping safe. A successful health and safety management system is not just about the company. Drivers also have to take responsibility.

Colin: 07799 656303

[img_assist|nid=12665|title=|desc=According to the HSE around 20 driving related fatalities a week can be attributed to work related car accidents.|link=none|align=middle|width=301|height=200]

Driving At Work Tools & Stats

There are tools in the marketplace to aid in assessing the people you have driving at work. An example is the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ (RoSPA’s) Driver Profiler.

In June RoSPA released Driver Profiler 2, an upgrade of its psychometric risk assessment tool designed to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of employees’ driving – it is based on work by Dr Diane Haigney and behavioural experts at Aston and Manchester universities.

It is an online software package that assesses the risks associated with an employee’s use of the road, enabling informed decisions to be taken about training that might be required.

Each assessment takes around 30minutes and measures driving-related attitudes and behaviour. It then gives the driver a risk rating. Go to www.rospa.com/drivertraining/ for more.

One firm that has impressed both New Milton Sand and Ballast training manager Paula Wiltshire and Ennstone in terms of ensuring drivers of heavier vehicles are up to scratch is Safe Drive in the Midlands. Wiltshire brought the firm in on a trial basis to train two drivers – one artic, one HGV. She says she was so impressed she is going to get the firm back to train all her drivers next year. “They really taught them well. It has made a huge difference,” she told MQR. IF you are interested they can be contacted on 01952 298621.

Some thought-provoking driving at work statistics

  • There are an estimated 3million company cars on the roads and roughly one in three will be involved in a crash each year
  • Company drivers who drive more than 80% of their annual mileage on work related journeys are 53% more likely to be injured than similar drivers who do not drive at work
  • The annual risk of being killed while driving for business reasons is significantly greater than the risk of dying as a result of all other workplace accidents.

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