Many people drive both to and from their place of employment and as part of their employment but employers do not always give proper consideration to the safety issues that could arise. RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) quotes research studies which reveal that more than 100 people are killed and seriously injured every week in crashes involving someone who was driving, riding or otherwise using the road for work.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires employers to take appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected by their activities when at work as much as is reasonably practicable. An individual who is driving – whether in their own or their employer’s vehicle – in the course of their employment is ‘at work’ and their employer therefore has a duty to consider their safety and the safety of others in that context.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also require every employer to carry out a regular risk assessment of risks that may affect the health and safety of their employees while they are at work or other people who may be affected by their work activities. This includes any driving activity on the road.
Every case will turn on its facts but, where an employee is involved in a road traffic accident - either while they are driving in the course of their employment or involving another vehicle being driven by somebody as part of their work - liability for the accident and any injuries may pass to the employer if they have failed to consider safety issues for employees driving and that failure caused or contributed to the accident.
Below are a few points that should be considered by employers and factored into documented risk assessments for employees driving in the course of their work:
- The employer should check that employees have a driving licence and appropriate insurance
- Is the employer aware of any health issues that may affect the employee’s ability to drive safely – and if so, how has that been managed?
- Where company vehicles or hire vehicles are provided, are there procedures in place to ensure that the vehicles are safe and properly maintained?
- Procedures should be in place to consider the safety of employees during adverse weather conditions
- What consideration is given to hours and fatigue? This may be mandatory and automatic where someone is a professional driver but should also be considered for those who only drive occasionally for work purposes
- A safe driving policy should be in place – and actively communicated to employees to make them aware of it and its requirements
- What steps are in place to ensure that the employee’s own car (where used for work purposes) is safe and properly maintained?
- Directives on use of mobile phones, alcohol consumption and similar safety issues while driving.
Philippa Luscombe, partner in the Penningtons Manches personal injury team, comments: “All too often employers fail to consider safety issues surrounding employees who drive during the course of their employment – and that failure can directly give risk to threats to the employee’s safety and the safety of others.
“We have dealt with a number of cases involving individuals injured in circumstances where the employer of one of the parties involved has ended up with some or all of the liability for the accident and injuries. These cases have included the provision of cars to employees which were not safe; requirements for employees to work and drive excessive hours leading to fatigue; drivers carrying other employees consuming alcohol; and individuals being given unrealistic work schedules, resulting in them driving too fast; and other scenarios where basic training or guidance from the employer could have avoided the accident. Employers need to be much more alert to these potential scenarios.”