Plans for a new offence of corporate manslaughter were unveiled last week, with further details due to be announced by the summer. The fleet industry has broadly welcomed the proposals, saying companies that operate high safety standards have nothing to fear. But fleets must now ensure they have a proper health and safety policy in place. Here, industry representatives give their opinions.
Director of business environment, CBI
'This announcement steers clear of some of the pitfalls that had most worried businesses. It is absolutely right that negligent firms should be prosecuted for gross misconduct leading to death. But responsible firms with good health and safety practices must be treated fairly.
'We are particularly pleased that the Government has avoided the temptation to target individual directors. Good health and safety practice comes from a shared responsibility across the workforce, not from trying to blame an individual unfairly.'
Chief executive, Brake and the Fleet Safety Forum
'Companies need to take responsibility for the safety of their drivers and vehicles. Company vehicles are involved in more than 1,000 fatal accidents each year and we hope this will make companies reassess their policies to ensure they are doing everything posible to prevent one of their vehicles causing a death on the road.
Head of Risk Management, RAC
'What people need to know is that eight out of the last 10 prosecutions for corporate manslaughter under the existing legislation resulted in immediate jail sentences. We obviously need more publicity around these cases to make companies realise that they should already be taking corporate manslaughter seriously – or it could be them behind bars.'
Director, AA Business Services
'The imminent Government publication of plans for a new offence is another reason why companies need to think more about the safety of their drivers. Recent sentencing guidelines over drivers who kill while either fatigued or using a mobile phone have already highlighted this, and practices need to be reviewed.
'Matters of health and safety are steadily catching up with the company car driver. As these actions tighten the legal procedures around work-related accidents, companies need to think hard about the way they control their fleets, and the pressures that are put on their drivers.'
Managing director, Peak Performance
'Employers should consider the risks to employees while driving in the same way as for those in the workplace, which means they must conduct a risk assessment on their work-related driving activities and implement the appropriate controls to reduce that risk.
'Any company not taking such measures could find themselves on the wrong end of the corporate manslaughter legislation that the Home Secretary announced, with potentially disastrous financial consequences in the shape of crippling large fines.'
Accident services manager, Interleasing
'Even though the legislation is not coming into force yet, businesses must act now to put systems in place to monitor the risk of their drivers and, most importantly, take action to try and prevent accidents.
'Under the new legislation, if an employee has already had several accidents and then is killed or kills someone else in an accident, the business will need to prove it has done all that is reasonable to try and prevent the fatality. And this also applies to cash -for-car schemes where the company may not have the controls in place to make sure the employee and their vehicle are safe.'