Reducing Risk: Your Legal Duty
Complying with legislation can be a minefield of confusion especially for small businesses with self employed drivers.
Included in this section:
Health and Safety Policy Statement:
When five or more persons are employed within an organisation there is a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to formulate a written Health & Safety Policy Statement and communicate its contents to all employees.
The document should include:
- an expression of the employer's commitment to health and safety signed and dated by a senior person
- details of the organisation and responsibilities for implementing the policy identifying key roles or individuals
- the arrangements established to ensure the health and safety of employees, contractors and members of the public.
Bearing in mind that the duty of health and safety law includes employees/drivers work related activities, your current health and safety policy statement should be extended as necessary to include such issues as management duties; journey organisation; driver training/competence and vehicle maintenance.
Firms operating vehicles fleets without an effective "duty of care" policy are putting their drivers and other road users at serious risk as well as exposing themselves to prosecution.
With around 1,000 people a year killed as a result of road accidents involving driving at work - four times higher than the number of deaths arising from all other work related incidents - enforcement agencies are now focusing on the health and safety arrangement of fleet operators.
The responsibility of the vehicle is placed on both the employer and the driver of the vehicle to ensure that the vehicle is maintained and operated in a safe and roadworthy condition (Section 41/42 UK Road Traffic Act 1988).
Businesses may also face prosecution for failing to set and maintain standards, like un-roadworthy condition; adverse maintenance will see vehicle removed from the road and drivers made aware of their legal responsibilities regarding a vehicle's condition.
Managers and drivers who are responsible for the day to day standard of driving, vehicle care and maintenance should be reminded of those responsibilities in writing.
This may take the form a written job specification, contract of employment or drivers handbook. It is recommended that regular vehicle inspections are completed for all types of vehicles and businesses hold records of this activity.
Managing work related road safety
Some operators believe, incorrectly, that provided they comply with certain road traffic law requirements, e.g. vehicles have a valid MOT certificate, and that drivers hold valid licences, that this is enough to ensure the safety of their employees and others, when they are on the road.
Health and safety law applies to on-the road work activities as to all work activities, and the risks should be effectively managed within a health and safety management system.
It covers people whose main job is driving and even those who drive occasionally or just short distances.
The HSE have produced a guide to managing at work road safety, which suggests ways to manage the risk of drivers health and safety.
The guidance applies to any employer, operator or supervisor with persons who drive and in particular those with responsibility for fleet management matters, but more importantly it also applies to self employed people.
Many incidents happen due to inattention and distraction as well as failure to observe the Highway Code. You need to consider what steps you should take to ensure that your employees use the road as safely as possible.
Fleet Risk Assessment
One of the key duties within the current Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations is that of risk assessment. In considering what is meant by "risk assessment" two terms need to be qualified i.e "hazard" and "risk".
A hazard is something which carries the potential to cause harm e.g. driver's access to elevated parts of the vehicles.
The extent of the risk will depend on the likelihood of harm occurring, the potential severity of that harm and the number of persons who might be exposed to the hazard.
The purpose of risk assessment is to help the employer/company/driver both to reduce the risk of injury or ill health and help the organisation comply with relevant statutory provisions (thereby avoiding or reducing the impact of many uninsured costs which arise from accidents or ill health).
Given that there is a duty to risk assess workplace hazards, as previously mentioned the company vehicle is now classed as a place of work so there is a need to ensure that risk assessment procedures are extended to include: -
* Employees'/Drivers exposures to manual handling and movement of luggage e.g. as part of the loading or unloading of vehicles the legal standard for which is the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
* Employees'/Drivers exposures to long distance journeys which could give rise to stress or fatigue if controls such as the following are not established
- planning of routes
- scheduling of driving work (to avoid where possible those periods of the day when drivers are most likely to feel drowsy)
- estimating and allowing sufficient time for completion of the journey
* The provision and use of vehicles with a view to confirming their suitability for the purpose (s) e.g. by investigating which vehicles are most suited to perform the task being asked of them
* The provision and use of vehicles with a view to confirming that safety equipment such as seatbelts and head restraints are fitted correctly, adequately maintained and function properly in order to comply with the current Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations and thereby meet the relevant duty within the current Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations
* The provision and use of vehicle-mounted equipment intended for use in connection with the mechanical lifting and lowering of passengers, the legal standard for which is the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 which includes duties such as the thorough examination and inspection of lifting equipment; maintenance of reports and defects; strength and stability of lifting equipment.
When carrying out a risk assessment you should assess and score the risk against three key risk areas:
- Risk relating to the driver
- Risk arising from the journey
- Risk arising from the type of vehicle used
There is a need to understand the areas they require specific focus upon, to avoid loss of use, business interruption, fraudulent injury and additional costing's are broken down into the following sub sections:
Age - drivers age has a great affect on crashing. Statistics show that drivers under the age of 20, especially men, are most at risk of having a crash. The safest drivers are aged over 30 but under 65. At over 65 the risk increases again.
Driving Record - the length of a person been driving, number of accidents and number of convictions are good indicators of the risk on the road.
Licence Held - less experienced drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident. Non UK citizens or those that have spent little time in the country are a higher risk , as they may not be fully aware of the laws and driving conditions.
Accidents - drivers who have recently had crashes, regardless of blame are more likely to be involved in subsequent crashes.
Convictions - drivers who break the law are more likely to be involved in accidents than law abiding drivers. The type of conviction is also relevant i.e. drink drive, dangerous driving etc.
Health - this can influence the likelihood of being involved in a related crash, i.e. heart conditions, epilepsy, diabetes.
Eyesight - estimated 1 in 5 are not able to comply with the statutory driver eye test (reading a vehicle number plate from 20 metres) and hence may not be able to react to or anticipate road hazards.
Back pain - those who suffer are more likely to suffer from fatigue and are thus at a higher risk of being involved in an accident.
Medication - certain medicines can cause doziness although many drivers ignore these risks. It is a particular problem with flu and hay fever remedies.
Training - the extent and degree of driver training and assessment has a big influence on driver's anticipation and awareness of the risks that are faced on the road.
Mobile Phones - they affect driver behaviour and concentration - this risk comes from the driver having to concentrate on the conversation rather than from operating the equipment so no differentiation should be made for hands free equipment.
Miles driven - the number driven provides an indication of how long the driver is behind the wheel and hence potential for crashes.
Journey type - motorways are the safest mode and rural roads most dangerous. Estimate the time spent on the different types of roads.
Average Driving Time - in reference to the length of time spent driving and the potential for fatigue. The driver should give an estimation based on typical week / month.
Time of Working - the question determines whether fatigue could be induced by the amount of overall hours the employee is at work driving
Midnight & 6am - our body clock expects us to be asleep between midnight and 6am so those driving between these hours face a higher risk of fatigue and mistakes !
Type - control by the proprietor on specifications, especially safety features.
Body Type - a minibus will offer much greater protection in the event of a crash, as opposed to smaller saloon cars.
Engine Power - generally the higher the performance of the vehicle the more likely it is to contribute to a crash.
ABS - actively avoids a crash in emergency situations by giving the driver the ability to steer under heavy braking unlike non ABS fitted vehicles, which will lock-up and skid without the ability to steer.
Airbags - protect the occupant inside and frontal impacts in conjunction with seatbelts. They do not lessen the potential for crash but the subsequent potential for injury.
Brake Lights - drivers behind have a readily observable and early indication of braking.
EuroNCAP Score - the Euro New Car Assessment Programme rates the vehicle in the event of a crash and can give an indication of human survivability. Vehicles are given a score out of 5. Vehicles rated 5 have a better chance of protecting the occupant.