Employers’ legal and moral obligations to their drivers

Employers have legal and moral obligations to ensure their drivers are safe.

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  • More than a quarter of all traffic accidents involve people driving in a work capacity.
  • Employers have a moral and legal obligation to protect employees on the road.
  • Telematics technology helps employers monitor their drivers on the road.

More than a quarter of fatal road accidents involve someone driving in a work capacity, according to the Department for Transport. Of all work-related deaths, about 75% occur on the road.

So, are employers responsible for staff who drive in a work capacity and what can they do to minimise the risks? Diarmuid Fahy, manager, fleet risk services at Alphabet, says: “If someone is expected to drive on behalf of their organisation, it is right for the employer to make sure they are kept as safe as possible. This ties into an employer’s legal obligations under health and safety and road traffic accident law.”

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to ensure, as far as reasonably practical, the health and safety of all employees while at work. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 state employers must conduct an assessment of the risks to which staff are subjected at work, including those relating to driving.

Corporate manslaughter

Under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, employers can face prosecution for manslaughter if it is found that gross corporate failures in health and safety led to the death of an employee.

These laws and regulations should form the foundation of an effective fleet safety policy, which should detail all the guidance drivers require to minimise risk.

Seasonal weather conditions are a good place to start, particularly in winter, when drivers are likely to face conditions such as fog, flooding and snow. Guidance is required on driving in bad weather, driver distraction, driving in the dark, and drinking and driving.

Fahy says employers need to refer to their wider health and safety policy when providing guidance, particularly over disciplinary matters such as drug and alcohol abuse.

Separate policies may be needed to tackle driving hazards such as mobile phone usage and fatigue. Fahy says: “The ideal policy for mobile phones should say: ‘never use a mobile phone, even hands-free, while you are driving’.”

Employers must also encourage drivers to take regular breaks and, where appropriate, provide them with overnight accommodation to break up long journeys. They must also monitor whether line managers are putting undue pressure on staff to drive long distances or to be constantly available on the phone.

Licences and insurance

Monitoring should include ensuring that employees’ driving licences are up to date and valid, as well as check that cars are insured for business use. Staff with out-of-date licences, excessive penalty points or the wrong kind of insurance will find it difficult to claim on their insurance in the event of an accident. As the instigator of the journey, the employer may have to accept some of the liability.

Employers should also monitor drivers’ mileage to ensure the distances they travel are reasonable. Martin Hiscox, chairman and chief executive officer at Masternaut, says anyone driving 25,000 miles a year should be classified as high risk.

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Telematics technology can help employers monitor staff drivers on the road. Hiscox says: “This helps employers to pinpoint vehicle and employee risks by providing data on statutory breaks and working time breaches, and it also identifies specific cars and/or drivers that are undertaking excessively long journeys.”

Employers can tackle identified problems by offering driver training through e-learning or a refresher training course. Geoffrey Bray, chairman of the Fleet Support Group, says: “If an employer determines that something isn’t quite right, then it has to intervene.”