The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that 250 serious injuries and 20 fatalities each week in the UK are caused by drivers ‘at work’.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Accidents estimates that each year between 800 and 1,000 UK road deaths are work-related.
HSE has now made it clear that employers have duties under tightening health and safety legislation to manage the risks faced by their workers (employees as well as self-employed people working for them) while driving.
If your drivers are involved in an accident causing fatalities the directors of the company can now, in the worst case scenario, be charged with Corporate Manslaughter for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
The HSE stipulates that if you have more than five employees you are required to write out Health & Safety-related procedures and controls and communicate them effectively to employees.
This implies that vehicles usage policies really need to be communicated by employers employing five of more people driving as part of their work.
So, all but the smallest firms have a responsibility to ensure that the health, safety and welfare of employees are all looked after in the workplace.
HSE recommends consulting with your employees on health and safety issues including risks arising from their work, proposal to manage and control these risks and the best way of providing necessary information and training.
Conversely, companies must ensure they are not put at risk by the work activities of their employees.
Whether employers provide vehicles or expect employees to drive their own for work purposes, all employees should have a vehicle usage policy to mitigate these risks and define duties on both the employer and driver.
HSE requires employers to clearly set out roles and responsibilities for work-related road safety. Issues like organising journeys to minimise risks, driver training and vehicle maintenance regimes must be covered.
A vehicle usage policy will vary but one of the key elements to bear in mind is what you want to achieve in the document. It will depend on the focus and culture of the organisation.
It should detail both drivers’ and employers’ responsibilities. Employers are ultimately responsible for making sure the vehicles which employees are driving are roadworthy, have valid insurance, up to date MOT and road tax on them. However, how is all this information gathered, checked?
Vehicle usage policies might also focus on reducing environmental impact. Many employers now have policies which encourage drivers to think about the necessity of doing all business journeys by car.
For example, they might explore the potential for working from home on some days, car sharing on others, and doing some customer meetings via conference call rather than face to face.
Your vehicle usage policy may also want to encourage sensible, economic and ‘greener’ driving behaviour. Driving style guidance can be built into the document.
This guidance may even be checked via telematics which can provide irrefutable evidence of driving style including average speeds, length of journeys before taking a break, evidence of hard braking etc.
Risks of driving for work need to be mitigated as far as possible by operating a zero-tolerance policy for speeding, driving while on the mobile phone, drinking and drug-taking before driving.
The HSE also provides its work-related road safety checklist which is well worth checking to ensure that you have a complete understanding of your drivers’ competence and capability to do their work behind the wheel.
Drivers’ should have clear instructions on how to keep themselves safe while driving, and this should certainly be included in any vehicle usage policy.
In summary, it’s worth personalising your vehicle usage policy. Don’t just pick one off the shelf. Build a policy which works for your firm and its drivers.
Then find a way of making sure it’s being read and understood by all your drivers and offer training where gaps in knowledge are uncovered.