According to the Department for Transport figures, more than a quarter of all road traffic incidents involve someone who is driving on behalf of their employer. Employers should be aware of their statutory duties not believe the myth that once the vehicle leaves the employer’s premises it is then the driver’s sole responsibility.
A business must ensure that any activities that it carries out pose no threat beyond what is reasonably expected.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that:
- An employer must ensure as far as is reasonably practicable the health and safety of its employees and anybody who may be affected by its undertakings. Self-employed persons have similar responsibility.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that:
- An employer must carry out a risk assessment to assess the risk to its employees
- An employer must assess the risk presented to persons affected by its undertakings
- An employer must consult with their employees on the findings of risk assessments
The Road Traffic Act and Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations also set out statutory duties that all employers who undertake activities that involve their employees driving on public roads must be aware of.
When incidents on the public highway occur, the Police will act as the primary enforcing authority in all cases regardless of whether or not the vehicle is being used for business purposes or a by a member of the public.
However, where incidents occur involving vehicles being used for business purposes and any subsequent investigation deems that poor management is a contributing factor, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) may also become involved in the investigation. In extreme cases involving employees being killed and where management failures are concluded, the business may face criminal action under Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
As such it is imperative that in all cases of vehicle use the business assesses the needs of the employee (and their training requirements), the vehicle and risk to the public to ensure that all reasonably practicable steps have been taken by the employer to ensure personal and vehicle safety and compliance with the law.
It is important to note that the daily commute that an employee makes from their place of residence to a fixed place of work is not normally considered to be occupational driving. However, commuting to site visits outside of the normal place of work can often be considered to be occupational driving, and should be assumed to count as occupational driving until confirmed otherwise.
The consequences of work conditions and events will inevitably affect an employee outside of work, and it is possible for an employer to be liable for incidents during the regular commute as a result of work conditions even where they would not normally be covered.
How to Manage Safety on the Road
There are many aspects to consider when managing the safety of drivers and their vehicles whilst on the public highway, from managing the vehicle to ensuring that the driver is properly rested and fit to undertake such duties, whilst at all times ensuring compliance with the law.
The HSE recommends four simple steps for this type of management: Plan, Do, Check, Act.
- Assess the risk presented by operating on the road in your organisation
- Create a policy detailing the organising of vehicle-based tasks, driver training and vehicular maintenance
- Clearly define employee roles and job descriptions and ensure that the policy is followed at all levels of the business
- Ensure that within an organisation all departments cooperate and follow the same procedure for road safety
- Ensure that all road going vehicles are road worthy and properly maintained, and ensure that all documentation is available for scrutiny
- Ensure that the organisation consults with employees regarding safety matters
- Ensure that all drivers operating on a public highway are trained in accordance with the type of vehicle they are driving and the tasks to be undertaken (for HGV drivers see driver CPC training requirements and tachograph restrictions)
- Monitor performance and ensure that the road safety policy is adequate and review where required
- Encourage all employees to report road incidents, collisions and near misses and employ trend analysis
- Collect information to make informed decisions on the effectiveness of the policy and make changes where required
- Review safe systems and risk assessments where required based on information and consultation with your employees
This model demonstrates the need for robust structure in the management of vehicles and road safety and not relying solely on the driver. Furthermore, the business needs to implement a procedure to ensure that no matter what the length or nature of the journey, that a process is followed which will present the opportunity to identify any issue that may arise where either the safety of the individual/s is compromised, that of any other road user, or that there are breaches of law which may result in prosecution for the driver and / or the business so as to allow for full management control.
When planning of the journey, first ask:
- Is the journey necessary?
- If so, what route should be taken and which type of vehicle should make the journey?
- Who within the organisation is most appropriate for the task?
- Does the time required in making the journey meet the requirements of the individual to take the appropriate rest periods?
When preparing for the journey, ensure that:
- The vehicle is road worthy and that the correct pre-start checks have been carried out and recorded in line with company policy and legislation
- The driver is suitably fit and rested to undertake the journey
- That there is sufficient emergency equipment provided to ensure if the vehicle becomes stranded for short periods that the driver is adequately equipped to ensure warmth and hydration
- The weather conditions are considered and appropriate controls implemented when required.
- Ensure that sufficient means are available for the driver to communicate with his / her employer in order to raise issues experienced during any journey or activity, so as to allow for the employer to take the appropriate steps to further ensure safety and compliance.
Explosives Regulations 2014
Changes to the Explosives Regulations 2014 have now come into force and are available here. Although for the most part these changes relate to specialist storage of explosives, the provisions for the storage of fireworks have also been altered as part of these changes. According to the HSE, information on which of the new Regulations apply to specific industry sectors will be published soon, although the HSE have published a revised leaflet relating to firework storagehere. If your organisation is planning for a private or public fireworks display on bonfire night, these changes are worth a look.