Fleet News

Risk management: Face facts and wake up to the business of risk

JUST over a year has passed since the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) released its well-publicised guidance on work-related road safety, ‘Driving at Work’.

But the message that fleets should be following this best practice guidance still does not appear to be hitting home and only last month research showed that 79% of businesses do not have a risk management strategy in place, nor do they plan to implement one (Fleet News, October 7).

Some of the excuses listed by fleets for not having a risk management policy include a lack of finances, not having the time or firms believing they don’t need to introduce one.

It is time to wake up and face the fact that companies could be prosecuted if they fail in their duty of care to their drivers.

For those fleets which are still unsure of what the HSE guidelines mean and what could happen if they are not followed, help is at hand. Here Andy Price, head of Zurich Risk Services’ motor fleet practice, has outlined what the current legislation is, what it could mean to fleets and what might happen if they fail to comply with it.

What is the law?

THE ‘Driving at Work’ guidelines apply to employers or managers of people who drive at work.

It outlines health and safety (H&S) best practice for work-related driving in addition to what is already applicable under road traffic law.

Price said: ‘The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) is the principal H&S legislation relevant to workplace activity. It sets up a framework whereby employers are required to give due consideration to the health and safety of their employees and those who may be affected by their activities. Now it is clear that someone driving at work is covered by these requirements, organisations need to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of anyone who might be harmed in the event of a collision, effectively meaning employees, contractors and other road users.’

Although H&S legislation does not apply to commuting, unless the employee is travelling to a location from home that is not their usual place of work, Price believes fleets would be wise to include this as part of their fleet risk management remit.

He said: ‘The other key piece of legislation is the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999. These ‘flesh out’ general duties under HSWA and provide a template of how to manage risk on a daily basis.

‘These regulations state that organisations need to carry out an assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees, while they are at work and to other people who may be affected by their work activities. Employees using their own vehicles for a work-related journey are also deemed to be at work and these regulations still apply. These regulations also require risk assessments to be reviewed periodically to ensure that they are still valid.’

There are other specific pieces of legislation which could apply to fleets, but Price believes the two outlined are the ones companies should focus on initially to ensure they are managing work-related road safety effectively.

What could happen?

THERE are still a few grey areas concerning what would happen if fleets do nothing to manage the risk of their drivers, but it does not mean that organisations can be complacent.

The police now initially investigate fatal road collisions as ‘unlawful killing’ until they prove otherwise.

‘This involves, among other things, investigating (for drivers involved in a work-related journey) what management controls were in place at the time of a collision. If these are found to be a contributory factor in the causes of the collision, then the company will be liable for prosecution,’ Price said.

‘There have been a number of high-profile prosecutions of companies operating commercial vehicle fleets where their drivers have been involved in fatal collisions, but there is little case law relating to company cars or relating to employees using their own vehicles for work-related journeys.’

If a company were prosecuted for not managing work-related road safety, the ultimate penalty could be a prison sentence, but the penalty does not end there.

Price said: ‘An organisation associated with prosecution brought on by not managing work-related road safety effectively will face some negative consequences. These include loss of brand reputation, which in turn could lead to lost business and decreased share price or shareholder confidence.

‘Don’t let this happen to your organisation. Consider driving as a work-related activity and include it in your organisation’s overall health and safety planning and implementation.’

Where to start

Price said: ‘As for making the transition of applying what the ‘Driving at Work’ document means into the everyday running of a fleet, managers need to first assess their current health and safety (H&S) procedures.

‘The guidelines ask organisations to look at current H&S practices and assess whether they include work-related road safety. This should be addressed in areas such as policy, responsibility, organisation and structure, systems and monitoring.

‘The organisation then needs to understand the risk via risk assessments. Only once it has identified, analysed and understood all the risks faced, is it in a position to decide on the appropriate interventions and the hierarchy of the control measures required.’

Price says that fleets need to ask two questions to determine the measures they need to adopt. If the risk can’t be eliminated, can it be substituted by something with a lower risk? If it can’t be eliminated or substituted, can it be reduced?

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