Legal experts warn that the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) could provide a basis for police and Health and Safety chiefs to bring prosecutions against contact hire and fleet management companies.
Employers could also find themselves in the firing line if employees use their own vehicles on business which are found to be unroadworthy.
PUWER imposes strict liability on the employer, but if a vehicle was found to have a fault that led to an accident, the driver could pass a claim for liability back to the supplier.
PUWER does not specifically include or exclude occupational road risk, although a vehicle may fall within its general understanding of work equipment.
Under Regulation 4, an employer is required to ensure all work equipment is constructed or adapted to be suitable for the use to which it is put.
The Health and Safety at Work Act also states that employers must assess the risks of use of work equipment, adapt or modify vehicles to ensure they are suitable, provide safety instructions and specific training.
David Faithful, solicitor and partner at law firm Amery-Parkes and a non-executive director of vehicle risk management company Risk Answers, said: 'The driver's first port of call would be to their employer, who would be strictly liable.
'But on the 'who touched it last' principal, the contract hire, leasing or fleet management company or their agents would be dragged into the claim.'
Faithful added: 'For drivers in PCP schemes, if the leasing company or agent has given the driver advice on the most suitable vehicle for their needs, if poor ergonomics caused an injury, the firms could become liable because the employee relied on their advice.'