Fleet News

Risk management: avoiding the 10 worst mistakes

HIGH-profile demands from Government and police for fleets to reduce their accident rates have put risk management at the top of the industry agenda for 2005.

Most employers recognise they have a duty of care to all employees driving on company business in any vehicle.

Full details of a company’s responsibilities are set out in Driving at Work, a joint Department for Transport and Health and Safety Executive guide to at-work road risk management.

But while there are many ways to improve on road risk management standards in a company, there are just as many ways to make mistakes.

Furthermore, fundamental errors could take many months or years to become apparent, only after significant investment has been made.

In a bid to ensure fleet executives stay on the right track when dealing with risk, Fleet NewsNet has compiled a hit list of the 10 worst errors fleets make in risk management.

1. EVADING RESPONSIBILITY

FLEET decision-makers have a responsibility to both their drivers and the company. But it can be a much more difficult task to decide to actually take that responsibility. Often the needs of the driver are neglected, as those who should be in charge of the risk management policy either delegate responsibility or deny knowledge that it is part of their remit.

Dave Abbott, general manager of RAC Risk Management, has seen first-hand the need for clear ‘ownership’ of the problem. He said: ‘Fleet managers should avoid attempting to interpret health and safety law as not applicable to their fleet with comments such as: ‘They are all perk cars, and are not driven on business.’

Failure to investigate every crash meant that individual drivers had no chance to learn from the experience, he said. And, more importantly, the company misssed out on the opportunity to find out if it had been implicated in any way.

2. NOT HAVING A RISK MANAGEMENT SPECIALIST

EMPLOYERS need to have someone who understands the nature of the problem facing fleet transport and knows what to do next.

Ensuring that a written policy is filtered down and adhered to by the drivers is usually the fleet manager’s responsibility, but can often be dealt with by other staff from human resources personnel to company secretaries, as long as they are properly trained.

In small companies, the committee could be as small as two people, usually the managing director and company secretary who may double up as the fleet or health and safety manager.

Les Hammond, director of risk management at Peak Performance, said: ‘Only by having buy-in and control at the very top of the organisation can a risk management policy for at-work driving be successfully implemented.

‘The next level of management needs to be brought in to assess the practicality of the at-work driving policy and its suitability for the needs of the company. Line managers will tend to be closer to this than senior directors, and without their buy-in the policy may not be seen as credible.’

3. EXPECTING A QUICK FIX

INTRODUCING a risk management policy is only the beginning of a long-term commitment to procedures which must be maintained and updated on a regular basis.

Ongoing changes to legislation mean fleet-decision makers must continually review policies to make sure they are still relevant. For example, the recent changes regarding use of hand-held mobile phones while driving would have needed a thorough review of driving policies.Presuming that risk management will be solved with a few simple measures is a mistake, according to Andy Price, head of motor fleet practice at Zurich Risk Services.

He said: ‘One mistake fleet managers can make is to assume that risk management initiatives are a quick fix, one-off solution.

‘The process has to be managed and it must remain focused on the issues to remain effective and achieve sustainable reductions in collisions.’

4. FAILURE TO CARRY OUT RESEARCH

INTRODUCING a risk policy without first researching what risks fleets are facing can be a waste of time, resources and money.

Assessments of drivers, vehicles and the workplace should be completed before a policy is introduced.

Hammond said: ‘Not conducting risk assessments for the task, vehicle and driver elements of the risk is a mistake. In assessing the at-work driving risk, it is important to look at all aspects of at-work driving and the different tasks that the company is carrying out.

‘This should work all the way through the organisation to include all driving activities, including spouses who drive company vehicles for whatever reason.

‘No aspects of occupational driving or company vehicle use should be overlooked.’ The first step in any risk management policy should focus on the employees and driver safety, according to Price.

He said: ‘Give priority to organisational and managerial interventions that will help create an environment in which employees are able to drive safely.’

5. FAILURE TO COMPLETE DRIVER CHECKS

FAILING to check driver credentials on a regular basis, particularly for new employees, can lead to serious problems.

Licences should be inspected on a regular basis – at least yearly – and relevant training should be offered to employees who need it. A basic driver check should cover three areas – licence checking, training and health.

This includes eyetests, whether drivers are using prescription medicines and any more serious problems. When checking licences, issue numbers on the photocard should match the paper counterpart. The address on the licence should be the employee’s permanent address. Any offence codes such as dangerous driving or drink offences should be declared by the driver and relevant insurance parties informed.

Jim Kirkwood, managing director at DriveTech, said: ‘It pays to check the small print of your insurance as some insurers insist on being notified about careless driving, drink-driving and drug-driving offence codes.’

6. FAILURE TO COMPLETE VEHICLE CHECKS

VEHICLES should be regularly maintained, serviced and be safe to drive. The onus is on the employer and the fleet manager to convey this message to drivers and ensure basic checks such as oil and water levels are completed on a weekly basis and service intervals are maintained.

Regular checks on roadworthiness and monitoring the service history of all vehicles are of vital importance in showing they are properly maintained, as any insurance will be invalidated if a company vehicle in an accident is found to be unroadworthy.

Hammond said: ‘This can be addressed with penalties and line manager disciplinary actions introduced for drivers who do not keep their vehicles in the prescribed condition and report compliance with such a policy.’

Drivers using their own vehicle for business use or sharing a company pool car must also be aware of vehicle checking.

7. INCLUDING DRIVING IN A GENERAL RISK POLICY

OCCUPATIONAL driving should not be treated as a general risk. A growing focus on driving at work by the authorities means it should be treated as a separate entity. It should receive the same treatment as other aspects on a company’s general health and safety policy, but be regulated under a separate driving at work policy.

This should cover the driver, the vehicle, journeys undertaken and procedures for dealing with accidents.

8. FAILURE TO COMPLETE AN AUDIT TRAIL

ONCE a risk management policy is up and running, a comprehensive audit trail needs to be completed following every incident or accident.

Failure to do this could cause serious difficulties in a police investigation and prosecution if the company is found to be in the wrong.

Hammond said: ‘Not maintaining evidence of compliance and not creating an audit trail is a mistake.

‘With the power held by the police and health and safety inspectors to investigate occupational accidents of any nature, it is imperative that a clear and easily identifiable audit trail of activity is maintained and reviewed for compliance.

‘The recording, classifying and analysing of all accidents caused and suffered by company drivers is of key importance. Companies should draw up accident forms to ensure all details are accurately recorded and carry out post-accident interviews with staff concerned to identify trends and take action to prevent re-occurrence.’

Clive Rolfe, head of network operations at Elite Incident Management also says that fleets should always respond quickly following a serious accident.

9. LACK OF COMMUNICATION

A LACK of communication between employers and employees can lead to a breakdown of any risk management policy.

Every employee needs to be aware of what the obligations are and it is up to the fleet manager or employer to convey the message effectively. Hammond said: ‘The need to communicate effectively throughout the organisation to ensure that everyone, from the top to the bottom of the company, knows and understands their responsibilities, the risks involved and what the senior management is doing to address them, is of paramount importance.

‘Only then can collective buy-in be achieved and credibility established.’

10. HAVING NO POLICY AT ALL

IT can all seem too much for some companies, to the extent that they ignore the problem altogether. This is a major mistake.

Having no measures in place leaves a gaping hole in terms of duty of care and employer responsibility. Any policy is better than no policy at all.

The worst-case scenario for a company with no idea about risk management could see its director or manager facing a hefty fine or even a prison sentence, so it is vital to introduce a policy now if there is not one in place.

Top 10 worst mistakes in risk management

1. Evading responsibility
2. Not having a risk management specialist
3. Assuming risk management is a quick fix solution
4. Introduce a risk policy without research
5. Failing to complete driver checks
6. Failing to complete vehicle checks
7. Including driving in a general risk policy
8. Not completing an audit trail
9. Lack of communication
10. Having no policy at all

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