The offence, thought to be the first of its kind, cost the firm £30,000 plus £24,000 costs and has serious legal implications for companies who know their employees work long hours, either while driving or in the office, and do nothing to limit the practice.
In October 2002, Mark Fiebig died when he fell asleep at the wheel of his car on the way home after working 76 hours in four days, and drifted into the path of an oncoming lorry, Workplace Law Network, a legal advisory service, has reported.
Prosecutor Pascal Bates said Fiebig’s employers must have had knowledge of the hours he was working because of daily records, and had failed to properly monitor the situation. Although not driving a company car at the time, experts believe it is very likely that prosecutors would treat a case of somebody driving for a long periods in a similarly serious fashion.
An article by Workplace Law Network said: ‘The case raises issues, among others, surrounding driving at work and employee liability and responsibility. By law employers are responsible for any employee who drives at work, whether they are a salesman who regularly travels on company business or an employee who makes a one-off journey.
‘Whether the car is owned by the company or is privately owned doesn’t affect the employer’s responsibilities.
‘Employers who don’t take these responsibilities seriously could be facing hefty fines or even imprisonment, especially when proposed new corporate manslaughter legislation comes into force.’