Managing road risk is your duty of care
Having effective fleet safety policies and procedures in place that are supported and promoted from the top of the organisation will help you to develop a strong safety culture among your workforce, writes Ross Moorlock, chief operating officer of road safety charity Brake
As an employer using vehicles to do your business, no matter the size of your business, or the type of vehicle you use, or who owns those vehicles, you have a responsibility to manage the associated risks, for any related legal reasons but also moral reasons to protect people from death and injury.
Having effective fleet safety policies and procedures in place that are supported and promoted from the top of the organisation will help you to develop a strong safety culture among your workforce. By making improvements to work-related road safety procedures, organisations can improve safety for drivers, other workers, road users and members of the public.
Investing in fleet safety can also deliver significant business benefits such as improving productivity, increasing legislative compliance, reducing workplace deaths and injuries, reducing workplace absences, and reducing crash-related costs, therefore positively affecting the bottom line and helping to protect the brand image.
The consequences of one of your drivers being involved in a fatal or serious crash are potentially horrendous for your organisation’s workforce, finances and reputation.
In 2017 alone, 1,793 people were killed on Britain’s roads and 24,831 were seriously injured. That means that five people are killed every day on our roads and more than 60 suffer serious injuries. Around a third of reported crashes involve an at-work driver, and it’s likely this figure is being under reported because of the way the data is collected. Research shows that at-work drivers are up to 40 per cent more likely to crash than other drivers and that work-related road crashes incur a greater average time lost in worker absence than any other workplace claim.
The legal obligations in relation to health and safety at work are clear. These include the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, which places a legal duty of care on all employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all of their employees, and the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Under this act, companies and organisations can, for the first time, be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of a gross breach of duty of care regulations.
Duty of care
The main responsibilities imposed by this legal framework fall on the shoulders of the vehicle owners. It is important to note that, from a legal viewpoint, a vehicle is considered to be a place of work. And companies have a duty of care responsibility to their drivers to make sure that vehicles are fit for purpose and that they are as safe as possible while out on the road, with adequate and appropriate insurance.
Employers also have a duty of care towards the employee and members of the public who may be affected by his or her work activities.
Organisations also have moral and social responsibilities, particularly to staff, customers and the communities in which they operate. If a driver is involved in a crash, it may harm their physical and emotional wellbeing, lead to lost working time, cause distress to colleagues, and damage your reputation locally. If someone is killed or injured in a crash, this has a devastating effect on families and the community.
Motor-vehicle traffic itself also has a huge impact on communities, public health and the environment. Organisations should ensure drivers drive as little as possible, and in a safe and fuel-efficient manner. They should also consider the impact of driving on the social environments in which drivers operate, such as the impact on schools and communities of heavy, fast and polluting traffic on their lifestyles and health. For example, if you have a lot of goods vehicles driving past a school or through a town centre, it can cause danger, noise and pollution, put people off walking and cycling, and affect your reputation with local families.
Fleet safety policies
Organisations can minimise this impact through sound fleet safety policies and procedures, such as routing journeys to avoid residential areas and town centres as much as possible, and stipulating that if staff drive in built-up areas, they should drive at no more than 20mph to help protect people and reduce noise and pollution.
Beyond any legal responsibilities, managing road risk can also provide benefits to organisations, helping to reduce insurance premiums and claims, improve reputation and morale, and avoid the potentially catastrophic effects of a serious crash.
To help reduce costs of collisions, organisations should aim to create a ‘collision-free culture’ that includes management championing of safety issues, a proactive risk management strategy, detailed collision and cost investigation and analysis, assessment of risks, a robust fleet safety policy and tailored procedures.
Having a road safety culture is not only about preventing the negative consequences of a crash. It can also have a positive effect on the reputation of the business. It also provides opportunities to engage further with staff, their families, other businesses and the wider community.
Brake is a road safety charity working to prevent road deaths and injuries and make communities safer and providing free support to families affected by crashes. Brake administers Global Fleet Champions, a global campaign to prevent crashes and reduce pollution caused by vehicles used for work, by sharing best practice in road risk management. Visit www.globalfleetchampions.org for