Any director, manager, supervisor or senior member of management who has control of staff that drive plant machinery, cars, lorries or even bicycles at work should be fully aware of the HSWA and its implications. Failure to do so can lead to prosecution for common law manslaughter, where, for example, they have caused a death through gross negligence or other motoring offence.
All employees are owed a duty of care by their employer under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (“HSWA”).
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (“Corporate Manslaughter Act”), which came into force on 6 April 2008 also imposes liabilities on companies themselves.
Work related driving
Work related safe driving is inherently difficult to manage as there are many uncontrollable elements to it. Therefore, it is vitally important that all employees engaged in driving activities as part of their work are aware of their responsibilities.
What is ultimately appropriate will depend on the particular activities of the business and the extent to which risks can, and need, to be controlled.
Taking the lead to promote safe driving
It is important that leadership on effective road safety comes from the management of the company. Ultimately, the company needs to take its health and safety obligations seriously. A successful work related safe driving scheme would be difficult to apply and direct without management support.
Problems may arise where people believe that driving is not business-related. The implementation of driver training may be sensitive as, in general, people believe that they are good drivers. In order to deal with such issues, it is essential to make staff realise that driving at work is not necessarily a private matter.
The benefits of the effective management of work related safe driving will go some way to reducing the risk of being prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter Act.
It will also increase the safety of the workforce, which in turn creates fewer employee absences, fewer vehicles off the road for repair and fewer insurance claims. It will also improve team morale and the employees’ sense of value.
Measures to prevent accidents at work
A company can take measures to ensure that relevant staff are aware of their responsibilities, including:
- undertaking comprehensive risk assessments;
- ensuring driver competency;
- undertaking vehicle maintenance and ergonomic checks;
- carefully scheduling employees’ journeys;
- providing alternative means of transport;
- monitoring distances travelled by employees and setting a daily cap;
- ensuring that vehicles are correctly loaded;
- making breakdown assistance available;
- ensuring that there is a programme of adequate incident reporting.