If any of your employees are required to drive for business purposes, whether using a company vehicle or their own private vehicle for business use, then you legally have a duty of care to minimise any risk to them in doing so. With driving for business being the most dangerous responsibility that employees have to carry out at work it is important to make sure that both they and the general public are protected.
Alarming statistics say that as many as four times the number of staff are killed when driving for business purposes than those that are generally killed in the workplace. It is also estimated that a third of road deaths and serious injuries each year involve people driving at work and in total nearly 40 people a week are killed on UK roads. In fact, driving more than 25,000 miles a year for business is one of the most life-threatening work activities you can undertake.
As outlined by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, a company’s duty of care extends to taking reasonable measures to reduce risks whilst driving for business purposes. So any journeys taken to visit other offices or clients, or carry out meetings, attend events, or make deliveries need to be considered within this scope.
With all of the information available, some employers are still unsure however about what it is they should be doing to successfully uphold their duty of care in this circumstance. This is indeed evident when you address the statistics taken from a number of company’s surveyed on some key duty of care responsibilities. The infographic below highlights the results from these surveys and just how many businesses are currently failing to meet their duty of care responsibilities…
Knowing what your duty of care includes
Based on the confusion many businesses have regarding where their responsibilities lie, the HSE advise the following 3 questions from each of their test categories should be considered and agreed with to ensure you are meeting your duty of care:
Health & Safety test:-
- The company has identified and taken responsibility for the competencies of all drivers permitted to use company or other authorised vehicles.
- Driver safety features as an integral element of the company and safety policy.
- The Provision and Use of Work Equipment (PUWER) regulations apply to the provision and operation of company vehicles
- The vehicle is insured for all journeys, business, domestic and pleasure, by the company
- People other than employees, such as spouses, dependents and contractors are also insured
- Owner-drivers are instructed to provide insurance for business use
Vehicle provision test:-
- The vehicle is provided as part of the remuneration package and it is maintained, serviced, and repaired by the company
- It is used to carry company goods or equipment
- The vehicle is provided to specifically allow the employee to carry out company business
How to address your duty of care
Once you are aware of the circumstances that render you responsible, then some of the main areas to address include carrying out driver and vehicle checks, not forgetting to check private vehicles that are used for business (grey fleet) and ensuring good communication with both drivers and employees interacting with your drivers on your policies and relevant safety issues.
You should adopt a fleet management policy outlining safety rules and regulations which need to then be well communicated and embedded within the business. Risks to your drivers need to be identified and appropriate training or standards need to be implemented to reduce these risks. Such policies need to be kept up-to-date and should include elements such as expectations on mobile phone usage, driver behaviour, drink and drugs, load bearing, journey planning, vehicle care and what to do in the event of an accident.
Implementing driver training programmes can address driver behaviour and expectations and should not be considered as an unnecessary cost to the business. For example, driver training can typically reduce your overall business vehicle costs by up to 20% in the first year.
Possible costs to ignoring your duty of care
Those businesses who don’t address their duty of care not only effectively breaking the law, but are missing an opportunity to reduce overall business vehicle costs. In addition to increased vehicle costs a liability claim against your business for a pedestrian or cyclist being severely injured by one of your drivers could result in as much as a £9m damages bill (the highest claim currently awarded in such a case). Or even when not looking at the worst case scenario, it is a fact that 65% of all company vehicles will be involved in a road accident in the next 12 months, which on average each have repair costs between £750 and £4,500 per claim.
With these figures in mind it is important to do what you can to reduce risk for your employees and fully consider your duty of care. Not only will your business face financial cost from risk or accidents, but you could find representatives guilty of manslaughter if the company’s actions or lack of actions are thought to be responsible.
Possible savings to your business from upholding your duty of care
By upholding your duty of care to employees driving vehicles for business use it should also be remembered that you can make many savings on your overall vehicle costs. With fleet vehicle costs being Britain’s second biggest SME cost centre following wages, this is something not to be sniffed at. By adopting a risk management programme or introducing elements such as telematics to improve driver performance and adding safety enhancements you can expect up to a 15% saving on insurance premiums depending on your fleet size.
Your overall fuel consumption and costs related to wear and tear on vehicle parts will also be dramatically reduced due to adopting more efficient driving techniques. In general there should also be fewer accident related costs, less administration time and costs and ultimately an increased value of the vehicle at the end of its replacement cycle.
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