FLEET decision-makers are getting to grips with new guidance from the Health and Safety Executive which will change the way they work forever.
Officials at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) admit they are entering uncharted territory with the launch of guidance on work-related road safety. The 24-page guide, produced with the Department for Transport, was released last week and identified almost 100 areas fleet decision-makers need to consider to ensure drivers are safe on the road.
For any fleet the task is daunting, although the HSE has insisted the document is only guidance and has no legal standing.
An HSE spokesman said: 'The primary purpose of the guidance is to raise awareness of employers' responsibility to manage the risks to employees when driving, and others who may be affected by their work activities.
'The HSE has limited experience in this area of work and enquirers should be encouraged to refer to the sources of practical advice and information given at the back of the leaflet. It has been the policy of successive governments that the HSE should not generally seek to enforce health and safety at work legislation where public and worker safety is adequately protected by more specific and detailed law enforced by another authority.
'In this case the Road Traffic Acts provide more specific law and are enforced by the police and others such as the Vehicle and Operator Service Agency (previously the Vehicle Inspectorate) and the highways authorities.'
What the guidance does provide is a sound benchmark for best practice in the industry. It can also act as a barometer to identify how much attention a fleet has paid to safety in the event of an accident.
It is estimated that up to a third of all road traffic accidents involve somebody who is at work at the time. This may account for more than 20 fatalities and 250 serious injuries every week.
The spokesman added: 'Some employers believe, incorrectly, that provided they comply with certain road traffic law requirements, for example having a valid MoT certificate, or if drivers hold a valid licence, that this is enough to ensure the safety of their employees and others when they are on the road.
'However, health and safety law applies to on-the-road work activities as to all work activities and the risks should be effectively managed within a health and safety management system.'
Here we provide a guide to the key points of the document and show examples of companies introducing effective best practice plans.
Industry experts give views on new guidance
Mary Williams, chief executive of Brake and the Fleet Safety Forum, said: 'We fully support the HSE in its wish to integrate work-related road safety into the health and safety management of all companies and the guidance clearly outlines the duty of care which every employer has to its employees. We look forward to working with the HSE to ensure that all companies are taking further steps to effectively manage their occupational road risk.'
Roger Bibbings, occupational safety adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: 'This is an important first step but there is a lot of work still to be done. The most important message which the guide sends out to employers who have not yet addressed this issue is that they can no longer ignore the safety of their employees on the road or the impact of their operations on road users.'
Jeremy Hay, director of Risk Answers, said: 'There is a financial argument for companies to take action. It is clear that the guidance requires a standard of risk assessment far in excess of that currently witnessed in the vast majority of companies. While the guide highlights numerous issues, it does not tell fleets exactly what is expected of them to make sure that they are legally covered.'
David Jamieson, Minister for Road Safety, said: 'I welcome this guide and hope employers will follow the guidance it contains to help our efforts to reduce casualties. I hope the benefits from raised road safety awareness at work will improve standards of private motoring.'
Bill Callaghan, chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, said: 'This document alerts employers to their responsibilities for managing the health and safety of their employees when driving at work. It will be of great help.'
David Faithful, solicitor and partner at solicitors Amery-Parkes, said: 'Few people in charge of fleets will have the knowledge and experience required to implement the guidance. With the exception of safety-first organisations such as petro-chemical and pharmaceutical companies, the majority of companies will have to outsource the risk assessment and seek professional advice. Having 10 years' experience in fleet management does not make someone 'competent' in health and safety terms to undertake a wide-ranging risk assessment.'
Christopher Bullock, managing director of IAM Fleet, said: 'Many of our larger clients saw this coming. They have geared up with a board-level person responsible for health and safety. But smaller entrepreneurial set-ups don't have that luxury. All organisations with drivers need to review their arrangements. That is why IAM Fleet staff are converting the new recommendations into a user-friendly 'action plan'.'
Phil Chapman, Managing Director, RAC Claims Services, said: 'Companies should be making sure that as much care is given to the safety of employees in their cars as in any other place of work – but there's an incorrect perception that road safety equals a big price tag. The publication is the writing on the wall for companies to make sure that they have road safety policies in place.'
Ron Munro, Motor Manager at Zurich said: 'Driving is one of the most dangerous activities in the working environment and as a responsible insurer we are urging businesses to take control of managing driver safety by assessing their drivers' awareness and taking action to improve it where necessary.'
There's no shortage of advice and information
There is a wealth of information available on the Fleet NewsNet and there are huge amounts of research and advice available from organisations involved in the fleet industry. Here are just a few:
Management of work-related road safety – research report 018. Available from HSE Books Ref RR018. Cases studies can be viewed here.
Managing Road Risk – An introductory guide for employers. Available from Brake at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Tel: 01484 559909
Managing Occupational Road Risk. Available from The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). Tel: 0121 248 2000
Management of Occupational Road Risk. Available from Croner CCH Group. Tel: 020 8547 3333
HSE website: www.hse.gov.uk.
Department for Transport (DfT) website at www.dft.gov.uk/ where there is specific information about driving at work.
DfT Road Safety Research Report No 31 'Company Vehicle Incident Reporting and Recording'
Occupational Road Safety Alliance website on www.orsa.org.uk.
For information about health and safety ring the HSE's infoline on 08701 545500 Fax: 02920 859260 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to HSE Information Services, Caerphilly Business Park, Caerphilly CF83 3GG
Your H&S queries answered
Why has the guidance been issued?
The production of guidance was one of the recommendations of an independent work-related road safety task group which was appointed by the Government and HSE in 2000 to look at ways to reduce at-work traffic incidents. Richard Dykes chaired the task group and its report is usually referred to as the Dykes Report. (It can be viewed on the HSE website at: www.hse.gov.uk/roadsafety)
Who does the guidance apply to?
This guidance applies to any employer, manager or supervisor with staff who drive, or ride a motorcycle or bicycle at work, including their own vehicle. It also applies to self-employed people. Employees and trade union-appointed safety representatives will also find it helpful. It covers people whose main job is driving and those who drive or ride occasionally.
What does the guidance say about legal responsibilities?
The Health and Safety at Work Act requires companies to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety and welfare of all employees while at work. They also have a responsibility to ensure others are not put at risk by work-related driving activities. Self-employed people have a similar responsibility.
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, companies have a responsibility to manage health and safety effectively.
They need to carry out an assessment of the risks to the health and safety of employees while they are at work and to other people who may be affected by their work activities. The regulations require companies to periodically review their assessments.
Companies are required to consult with employees and where applicable, their health and safety representatives on the issues covered in this guidance. Health and safety law does not apply to commuting, unless the employee is travelling from their home to a location which is not their usual place of work.
Should I carry out a risk assessment?
Risk assessments for any work-related driving activity should follow the same principles as for any other work activity. It should be carried out by a competent person with a practical knowledge of the work activities being assessed. For most small businesses and the self-employed, the hazards will be easy to identify. Employers which employ fewer than five people do not have to record their findings, but they should make some notes.
Does the guidance mean the HSE will get involved following a major incident? Health and safety law requires employers and the self- employed to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all employees and to safeguard others who may be put at risk from their work activities. This includes when they are undertaking work-related driving activities.
The Health and Safety Commission's (HSC) Enforce-ment Policy Statement sets out the general principles for enforcement. These recognise the need to prioritise investigation and action. Current priorities, as set out in the HSC's strategic plan, do not include work-related road safety. The police will continue to take the lead on the investigation of road traffic incidents.
Enforcement action by the HSE will usually be confined to incidents where the police identify that serious management failures have been a factor.
What key questions should I be asking? Areas should cover the driver, the vehicle and journeys. Key questions could include:
1. Are drivers capable of doing their work in a way that is safe for them and other people?
2. Are drivers properly trained?
3. Are drivers sufficiently fit and healthy to drive safely and not put themselves or others at risk?
4. Are vehicles fit for the purpose for which they are used?
5. Are vehicles maintained in a safe and fit condition?
6. Is safety equipment properly fitted and maintained?
7. Do drivers have access to information that will help them reduce risks, such as recommended tyre pressures?
8. Are you satisfied that drivers' health, and possibly safety, is not being put at risk, for example from inappropriate seating position or driving posture?
9. Do you plan routes?
10. Are work schedules realistic?
11. Are you satisfied that sufficient time is allowed to complete journeys safely?
12. Are you satisfied that drivers will not be put at risk from fatigue caused by driving excessive distances?
13. Are you satisfied that sufficient consideration is given to adverse weather conditions when planning journeys?