More than a quarter of all road traffic incidents involve someone who is driving for work (Department of Transport). It is therefore vitally important that employers, their management team and the workforce recognise that health and safety laws apply to all work activities which include “on the road” activities, and that the risks associated with driving must be managed, just like any other task or activity.
The law applies to any employees who drive, ride a motorcycle or even a bicycle for work, including those employees who have been given permission to use their own personal vehicle for a work-related journey.
Health and safety law however is not applicable to employees who are commuting, unless they are travelling from their home to somewhere which is not their usual place of work, as this would be regarded as a task / activity they are conducting, for work.
Employers with large goods vehicles (LGVs) or passenger carrying vehicles (PCVs) may also be subject to specific legal requirements that take priority over the general advice given here.
What laws apply?
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act states employers must ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all employees while at work, as well as also ensuring that others are not put at risk by their work-related activities.
‘So far as reasonably practicable’ means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the risk in terms of money, time or trouble so you do not need to act if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk. This of course does NOT mean that safety is to be ignored for the sake of profit.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require you to manage health and safety effectively by carrying out an assessment of the risks to the health and safety of your employees, while they are at work, and to others who may be affected by your organisation’s work activities. Where driving is the work activity this would include other road users, pedestrians, road-side workers, etc.
If your risk assessment states that driving licenses and other items such as MOTs and insurance documents are checked then you will need to be able to evidence this occurs to the timetable stated for the risk assessment to remain meaningful or a true reflection of the procedural processes.
For fleet managers, ensure any Company insurance requirements regarding allowed points on an individual’s license is known and checked against regularly. Companies should determine the regularity of checks against the likelihood of a driver being penalised. The more a person drives the higher the risk, so a taxi driver or professional driver may need to have their licence checked quarterly or at the least biannually (twice a year). Points can be added to a drivers license for any number of infringements, with drivers likely to be disqualified from driving if they reach 12 points on their licence in any three-year period.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations require employers to provide equipment (vehicles in this case) that are suited to the task and to ensure that they are maintained in good working order.
It also requires the employer to ensure personal equipment (a privately-owned vehicle) used for work purposes is also maintained in good working order which is why you must see evidence that MOT’s and pre-use checks are being conducted, and document this.
The Smoke Free (Exemptions and Vehicles) Regulations require you to ensure that vehicles are regarded as extensions of the work premise and subsequently kept “Smoke-free”.
“No Smoking” signage must be displayed in separate compartments and any “sharing” of vehicles, even if at different times must be managed sufficiently to ensure that nobody is running the risk of being affected by “second-hand smoke” or passive smoking.
The Road Traffic Act and the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations, which are administered by the police, and other agencies such as the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
In most cases, the police will take the lead on investigating road traffic incidents on public roads. HSE will usually only become involved / take enforcement action where the police have identified that serious management failures were a significant contributory factor to the incident.
If one of your employees is fatally injured, for example while driving for work, and there is evidence that serious management failures resulted in a ‘gross breach of a relevant duty of care’, your company or organisation, as well as senior management, could be at risk of being prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act.
Effectively managing your work-related driving should produce:
- fewer injuries to drivers;
- reduced risk of work-related ill health;
- reduced stress and improved morale;
- less costs including time spent with regards to putting right damage / repairs of vehicles, insurance premiums;
- less chance of legal action being taken.
This would be a good time to ensure you’re Driving for Work risk assessment(s) are in place, are up-to-date and that all the driving force are aware of the hazards and how they are to be managed.
Winter Driving Precautions
With Winter fast approaching, it is also prudent for managers to raise awareness of the additional hazards this time of the year presents to those employees who drive as a part their duties. These include adverse weather (rain, snow, frost, standing water, cold) and long hours of darkness. By following the advice given below, drivers will help to ensure safety when driving in these conditions:
- Make sure you have plenty of fuel.
- Allow extra time for the journey and reduce speed.
- Increase the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front – in ice and snow stopping distances should be regarded as needing to be ten times longer.
- In reduced visibility such as driving in rain or fog, use dipped headlights and rear fog lights. Use the windscreen wipers to keep the windscreen clear, even in fog.
- Remember to turn fog lights off when no longer required as they can distract other road users in normal visibility and to remain legally compliant.
- Remember snow is visible but ice, especially black ice, is often invisible.
- Avoid sudden braking, harsh acceleration or sharply applied steering maneuvers.
- Keep all windows and mirrors clean, clear of snow and ice and free of mist. Keep lights and indicators clean.
- Carry a torch, a spade, extra warm clothing, Wellington boots, a blanket, a snack and a hot drink, especially if you are driving through isolated areas.
- If you are planning a long journey advise someone of your destination and approximate expected arrival time. If you have one, carry a mobile phone with you, ensuring it is fully charged, BUT do not use the phone whilst driving.
- If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable driving in adverse weather conditions, consider whether your journey is necessary at that time or whether it can be postponed. Consider whether an alternative method of transport would be better.
- If stranded by bad weather, try to ensure that you are not blocking access for emergency vehicles. Remain with the vehicle unless there is shelter nearby. Maintain your circulation by moving your body. If you can, use the engine to keep warm; but do not use the engine if the exhaust cannot vent safely. If you are snowed over, ensure that an airway is maintained.