The significance of the risks involved in driving at work is frequently not prioritised as highly as it should be by many organisations.
According to figures produced by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the Department for Transport, 25% of all road accidents are work-related. Further, 26% of all road fatalities are also work related. During the period 1992-2001, overall road fatalities fell whilst during the same period work-related road fatalities increased.
One in three company car drivers will be involved in a collision during the course of a year with the same drivers being 30-50% more likely to have a road traffic collision (these figures are provided by the Transport Research Laboratory). The issues in relation to driving at work are therefore significant and require thought by those organisations whose employees drive as part of their working day.
A number of areas have been identified as having a particular impact in relation to work-related driving incidents. These include;
- driving whilst fatigued
- using mobile telephones
- eating or drinking whilst at the wheel, and;
- driving whilst under time pressure to attend meetings.
There are a number of factors that need to be considered by any organisation to minimise the risks in relation to work-related driving. These include training, fatigue, pressure and incident management.
Where an employee is involved in a work-related driving incident there are significant costs that will be incurred by the organisation. These costs will include vehicle loss, staff loss and third party claims. However, if there is a fatality there is also the possibility of an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 or, alternatively, a prosecution under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, both possibilities greatly increasing the level of exposure and cost to the organisation involved.
The duties owed by an employer to an employee are the same in relation to driving activities as if that employee were based on a building site or in an office. This is a point that is often forgotten; ‘out of sight out of mind’.
There are five main areas that need to be considered in relation to work-related road safety;
- having a suitable and effective driving policy;
- organisation and structure;
- systems, and;
- monitoring and review.
It is essential that driving is covered by the organisation’s health and safety policy or, alternatively, that there is a stand-alone driving policy covering both commercial and non-commercial vehicles.
Directors and senior managers need to set an example to employees throughout the organisation and demonstrate a top level commitment to work-related driving. Any policy needs to be integrated with tailored guidance and training provided to ensure that compliance can be achieved. A monitoring function should be put in place to ensure that employees report and document work-related road incidents.
Risk assessments in relation to driving at work activities should examine potential hazards as well as determine who may be harmed – the driver, employee, passenger and other road users. In terms of evaluating driver risk, these will cover three main areas:-
(a) The driver (competency, training, fitness and health);
(b) The vehicle (suitability, condition, safety equipment, safety critical information, economic considerations); and
(c) The journey (routes, scheduling, time, distance and weather conditions).
An effective transport policy could have benefits for the organisation as well as the employees including reduced costs through reduction of incidents, better decision making in terms of risk reduction, reduced stress on employees, reduction in loss of work time and less risk of scrutiny and enforcement.
Although work-related driving has been, in some instances, considered separate to the daily work function of employees, it is important that organisations adopt a policy of inclusiveness and ensure that their employees are adequately covered and trained whilst engaged in work-related activities.