Fleet News

Guest opinion: progress continues on corporate killing laws

'I AM often asked what is the current position in the ongoing saga regarding the introduction of corporate killing. Last month, the Home Office issued a press release in which it confirmed that there was still no precise end in sight but that progress continues.

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.

HSE prosecutions

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.

Working time

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.

They will:

  • Allow a four-month reference period for calculating the 48-hour week, which can be extended to six months. n Allow night workers to work more than 10 hours for every 24-hour period, subject to an agreement between employers and workers. Mobile workers as defined by the EU drivers rules will be subject to separate limits.

  • Define night time as a period between midnight and 4am for goods vehicles and 1am-5am for passenger vehicles. n Permit the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) to enforce the new regulations in response to complaints received and to check working time records at employers' premises. In addition it has also been confirmed that:

  • Self-employed drivers will not be covered by the regulations until March 2009.

  • Voluntary work will not contribute towards the calculation of working time.

  • Workers who are occasionally subject to the directive will be covered, including the 60-hour week, the 10-hour night time limit and the daily/weekly rest breaks.

  • Companies will be able to calculate the 48-hour week by a number of approved methods.

  • Definitions under the directive will be embodied in UK law and detailed guidance and definitions of individual terms will be published later.

    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.

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