Fleet News

Draft report recommends directors be held responsible for driver safety

COMPANY directors face the prospect of jail sentences if the Government-backed Work-related Road Safety Task Group (WRRSTG) succeeds in its aim to have all employees driving on business covered by health and safety legislation.

Draft recommendations from the WRRSTG call for the extension of health and safety laws to cover company vehicle drivers.

This would see employers forced to adopt the same duty of care responsibilities for at-work drivers as they have towards staff in the workplace, including a detailed risk management assessment. Negligence in driver safety that led to an accident involving serious injury or death could see directors held liable and facing a jail sentence.

The WRRSTG proposals also urges the Health and Safety Executive to consider extending The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) to vehicle-related incidents.

RIDDOR requires companies to report all fatal workplace accidents or those which required more than three days off work and injuries to members of the public. This leads to investigations of incidents and, if justified, prosecutions. RIDDOR itself could be tightened-up to make companies report less serious incidents.

A total of 17 key recommendations, covering nine primary and eight secondary proposals, are being considered by the task group, which has been set up to create a strategy for Government to drive down fleet accident rates.

However, the WRRSTG has backed away from recommending compulsory driver training, and calls for further discussion of its suggestions for a van fleet operator's licence.

Fleet News understands that the inclusion of company vehicles in health and safety rules will initially be used as guidance to employers. But if there is no clear reduction in accident statistics, the Government will produce a code of practice for fleets by 2004, which will be used to prosecute companies not complying with the rules.

David Faithful, solicitor and partner at Amery-Parkes Solicitors, said: 'Fleets that will suffer are those which already have a very poor or non-existent approach to safety. Companies will not get away with just ticking boxes saying they have carried out risk management assessments. They will have to provide detailed evidence of their work if a driver has an accident and they are investigated.'

The Work-related Road Safety Task Group's final recommendations will be considered by members on Tuesday, before a final draft is prepared to hand to Government, which is not expected to act on the recommendations until next year.

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