Fleet News

Fleet management: dealing with serious accidents

THE reason many fleets introduce risk management policies and driver training is simple – drivers have accidents.

There are several ways to prevent and lower incidents across a fleet but as statistics constantly prove crashes will still happen, however rare.

Even the most robust health and safety policies can’t prevent every smash on the road and alongside trying to prevent collisions, companies need to know how to deal with employees which have been involved in a serious accident.

Dr Edmund Bonikowski, chief executive officer of Kynixa, a specialist rehabilitation company which works with insurers and legal firms, said: ‘In many situations, knowing who to turn to for advice for an injured employee is difficult. Even in quite straightforward cases, simple injuries can turn into long absences which can be difficult for the driver and employer.

‘Sometimes recovery can be hampered by the trauma of the accident and the social circumstances of the injured driver.’

The initial step for the fleet manager should always begin with the accident investigation. This can help with providing the most suitable support for the employee involved.

If the driver was rushing to their next appointment or was over-stressed by workloads, these issues may have to be addressed in the rehabilitation process.

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said: ‘The key is to understand what happened in the accident and why. The employee may have post traumatic stress so companies may have to offer some form of counseling.

‘There should also be a discussion about how the employee feels about driving again. This may be addressed with driver training. Companies should also look at driver’s schedules as this could also be an issue.’

Since April 1 this year, rehabilitation must be considered under new Civil Procedure Rules introduced by the Department for Constitutional Affairs. This means that the driver, their solicitor and insurance company must consider whether the driver has needs that could be met by rehabilitation treatment.

However, even though some companies have procedures already in place for dealing with this type of driver, there are still many which don’t, according to Bonikowski.

He said: ‘The inconsistency as to how drivers are treated is evident within companies themselves.

‘While larger companies are beginning to feel they have greater responsibilities towards the injured driver, smaller companies of between 500 and 1,000 employees haven’t even got off the starting blocks.

‘In many companies, there seems to be no continuum of provision if a driver is hurt and would benefit from rehabilitation.’

Where to get help and advice

  • ROAD safety charity Brake offers help and support for companies with employees who have been involved in a serious or fatal accident.

    A dedicated helpline provides information on how to deal with the situation alongside advice and support for employers.

    The group’s website also has downloadable literature for companies dealing with a serious road crash victim.

    Call 01484 421611 or visit www.brake.org.uk

  • THE Department for Work and Pensions also produces a leaflet called Incapacity Benefit: Getting back to work (IB203). The guide provides information on the Government help available for employees returning to work following an accident.
    Visit www.dwp.org.uk.

  • A POST-accident driver training awareness course is available on request through Norwich Union Roadsense risk management. Provided by the RAC, the course objective is to ‘review the accident and through a constructive approach develop the confidence of the driver to deal with everyday driving situations.’ The course takes half a day on a one-to-one basis and includes both theory and practical training.
    For further information, call 08704 606 2606.

    Rehabilitation benefits both employer and driver

    REHABILITATION can often help drivers get back to work more quickly or find other means of employment. In addition, early intervention can reduce recovery time and the overall costs to both employee and employer.

    Apart from counselling and additional driver training, there are other aspects to rehabilitation.

    Specialist companies, such as Kynixa, can offer a telephone service which may be suitable for drivers who have sustained whiplash injuries, while other groups such as the road safety charity Brake offer telephone helplines for both companies and drivers to use for support and advice following a serious accident.

    Bonikowski said: ‘Injured employees can receive vocational and workplace assessments and we can agree with both employer and employee goal-based solutions with individual treatments to get there.

    ‘All parties will agree to these targets and the adversarial type of confrontation, which can often develop in these circumstances, is avoided.

    ‘Ultimately, rehabilitation is a ‘best practice’ issue for companies. If a company driver is injured, the employer and insurance company have a responsibility to help them get their life back together and provide the best standards of care.

    ‘The best way of doing this is through an integrated clinical and vocational rehabilitation programme which co-ordinates treatment and recovery with a return to work.’

    Fleet in focus: practical steps for getting drivers back on their feet

    A COMPANY car driver was involved in a road accident travelling home from work in Yorkshire last July. Driving on the inside lane, he was hit from the rear by a lorry, collided with another truck in front of him, swerved across the carriageway and came to rest in the central reservation.

    It took more than two hours for a fire crew to cut him out of the car. After initial surgery, he was later transferred to another hospital for further surgery and rehabilitation. He was discharged five weeks later and has not yet been able to return to work.

    Rehabilitation specialist Kynixa recommended a programme of rehabilitation following consultation with the driver’s insurers and solicitors.

    The driver sustained severe leg and feet injuries, particularly to his right foot, which have greatly reduced his mobility and make further surgery likely. Screening tests performed by Kynixa also show he is suffering from mild depression and anxiety.

    Kynixa case manager and occupational therapist Lisa Fairhurst said: ‘Our client is naturally very worried about his future, the impact the accident has had on his wife and family relationships and, most importantly to him, how he will return to work and function at a productive level in the work environment. His focus is to walk again with minimal pain and play an integral and fulfilling part back at work.’

    Through the assessment, Kynixa looked at how the driver would be able to cope in his home environment and with simple tasks such as eating and sleeping. He initially received full-time sick pay but after six months this was reduced to half. He has also received a substantial interim payment by way of compensation.

    Kynixa is liaising with the NHS to ensure the driver is receiving the necessary quota of physiotherapy to increase his mobility. It is also in the process of contacting his employer to establish their thoughts about his return to work and potential re-location, which may be necessary.

    Fairhurst said: ‘We will arrange for the driver to visit his workplace and establish if adjustments to his work environment are possible. We will also arrange a driving assessment to establish if adaptations are needed so he can drive safely in the future. ‘He will need a gradual return to work which will need to be agreed with his employer. I would hope that a position would be found for him back in his current place of work. If not, we will continue to support him by helping advise on alternative employment or retraining.’

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