Fleet News has learned that the HSE has approached a number of large fleets asking to see occupational road risk policies during routine visits looking at office and factory safety.
Although the Health and Safety Commission, which oversees the work of the HSE, recently rejected calls for it to get involved in accident investigations or road safety enforcement, citing a lack of manpower, some investigators are delving further than the official area of work-related vehicle safety.
The investigations are being done on the back of the HSE's 'Revitalising Health and Safety' campaign which, among a raft of industrial safety measures, includes a target to reduce accidents involving vehicles in the workplace by 10%.
Peter McCormick, safety, environment and training director for the north of England-based electricity companies NEDL and YEDL has had his road risk policy for the companies' 1,800 strong fleet scrutinised by the HSE.
He said: 'When the HSE comes in to do audits, it is looking at the full picture, including safety management systems for fleets. The HSE is being more proactive and asking to look at road risk strategies. It is on its agenda. Our factory floor stretches from the Scottish border to Scunthorpe and across to the Pennines, and there has to be a policy in place for such a massive area.'
Allen Bewley, head of risk management of RAC Business Services, said: 'The HSE is beginning to look at occupational road risk policies. It is in its embryonic state, but it is coming. It ratchets the whole subject of fleet safety up a notch.'
Having worked extensively with the RAC to put a comprehensive fleet risk management strategy in place, McCormick said he had nothing to worry about, but warned that employers who did not have such systems could get a shock should the HSE call and ask to see vehicle-related policies.
One detail the HSE is keen to see fleets include in safety policies is a ban on the use of mobile phones in vehicles.
The dangers of driving while on the phone are well documented, and pressure on companies from the HSE to ban in-vehicle phone use could be used as an interim measure until a law is introduced to make the practice illegal.