In the increasingly litigious UK society, the culture of 'where there's blame there's a claim' risks enveloping fleets, according to solicitor David Faithful, a partner with Amery-Parkes.
'If a driver says he has a back problem because of the vehicle he drives, you cannot ignore it,' he said at the Fleet News Healthcheck, sponsored by AA Business Services and Interleasing.
The issue could have major ramifications for fleet choice lists, particularly for solus badge fleet arrangements, and Fleet News has already reported on one health think–tank's views that single-badge fleet deals are bad for the health of drivers.
This message will increasingly be reinforced by legal compulsion, as new precedents are set where employees successfully sue their employers for injuries incurred when using unsuitable or faulty, corporately-provided equipment.
In one case - colloquially known as Postman Pat and his wobbly bike - a postman sued the Post Office after sustaining injuries when a brake calliper failed on his bike.
'The court of appeal held that PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998) now conferred strict liability upon employers so they are liable even if the defect is not capable of being identified by inspection,' said Faithful.
'There are additionally ergonomic considerations of using vehicles not designed for occupational purposes.
'We are now seeing a lot more back injury claims arising from poor seating or driving positions.'
In a further complication, if an employee successfully sues an employer for an injury caused by an at-work driving incident, then companies involved in servicing and maintaining the vehicle could also come under the spotlight.
This could lead to a 'pass the buck' game/claim from employer to contract hire company to garage.