The Home Office has indicated that since the Queen's Speech, dialogue has continued with corporations and trade unions as to the impact of the proposed legislation.
It has been confirmed that its intention is not to place new burdens upon companies who are already complying with their health and safety responsibilities, nor is it intended to change the criminal liability of individual directors, which I presume is a reference to corporate manslaughter and the current method of prosecuting for breaches of health and safety legislation.
The immediate plan is to publish a draft bill before the end of the current parliamentary session with presumably the final legislation appearing either late this year or early 2005.
I have in the past highlighted to fleet managers the trend in health and safety prosecution towards the targeting of supply chain companies on the 'who touched it last' principle. I have also warned that despite the Health and Safety Executive's apparent disinterest in investigating and prosecuting health and safety offences arising from road accidents, the possibility is still there due to new-found co-operation with the police.
In May, the Health and Safety Executive successfully prosecuted four construction companies who were fined a total of £37,000 for breaches of health and safety legislation arising from a road accident caused by a failure to clear mud from a road which had been deposited by vehicles leaving a site.
The accident happened when two vehicles collided near Chatham in Kent killing one driver and the mud was a causative factor.
The prosecution was founded on Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to ensure that persons not employed by the companies were not exposed to risk and all of the companies pleaded guilty.
This prosecution is a warning to fleet managers that the net is closing and that consideration must now be given not only to the health and safety of fleet drivers but also anyone who may be affected by their actions.
The consultation period regarding UK implementation of the Road Transport (Working Time) Directive has concluded and Transport Minister David Jamieson has announced the content of the new UK regulations which should be with us by the March 23, 2005.
Time is now running out, if you will excuse the pun. Fleet managers should ensure that they are familiar with the future requirements and those subject to operator's licences will in future have the spectre of VOSA looking over their shoulder.