Driving is dangerous. No matter how good we are at driving, or think that we are, there are always external factors which can affect how our journeys go – from weather conditions and poorly maintained vehicles to distractions whilst driving and other road users. There are plenty of risks which can lead to collisions and we are all sadly used to seeing the results of this on the road on a frequent basis. It is easily one of the most hazardous activities we regularly undertake and the risks for those driving for work are no different. In fact, one in three of all road traffic collisions in the UK involves somebody driving for work.
You might be reading this thinking that this doesn’t affect your organisation as you don’t have any company vehicles. Or maybe you do have a fleet of vehicles but you have a policy in place. What about those employees who use their own vehicles for work though – are they covered? From our research, most organisations aren’t fully aware of their responsibilities to their employees when it comes to ensuring their safety and compliance on the road. As managing the vehicles, logistics and travel increasingly falls to an HR professional, the knowledge needed to meet your organisation’s obligations aren’t always passed on with the workload. Our recent survey of HR professionals showed that 8% of the organisations they represented didn’t have a vehicle policy in place at all and of those that did a further 43% didn’t do anything to act upon it.
We are all aware of our obligations in a range of Health and Safety fields. We provide ergonomic office equipment, create optimum working conditions, offer first aid training and fire safety advice amongst a whole raft of possible Health and Safety concerns. However, more often than not we expect our employees to get into a vehicle which may (or may not) be suitable for the purpose it is being used for, which we potentially may never even have seen and to drive on behalf of our organisations without any more consideration than them having passed a driving test at some point. This isn’t true of all organisations, of course, and there are plenty out there who are doing their best to ensure employee safety at all times but we must recognise that it isn’t easy to know what to do and how to do it to make sure we are doing the right thing.
If you don’t have any company vehicles, perk cars, Light Commercial Vehicles – then you might think that there is no obligation. You would be wrong, however, as under the Health and Safety at Work Act you are required to safeguard so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all employees while at work – this includes whilst they are driving; even if it is in their own vehicle. Although there are around three million company vehicles on the road in the UK, this pales when compared to the estimated ten to eleven million people who are driving their own vehicles for work purposes. When an employee drives their own vehicle there should still be a policy requirement for that vehicle to be maintained, taxed and MOT’d in line with legislation and the employee should also be made aware that they must have Business Use insurance as part of their Insurance Policy – without this they risk having inadequate cover if the worse does happen.
Your employees who have company cars or drive light commercial vehicles drive a lot of miles and this makes them a higher risk as the probability of a collision increases with the number of miles driven – typically one collision for every 100,000 miles driven. Where a vehicle is company owned or leased often drivers feel that the responsibility to maintain the vehicle falls to the employer. Legally, however, anybody driving any vehicle whether for work or not is personally responsible for the upkeep of that vehicle demonstrating that it is key that everyone knows their role and how to fulfil it.
Workplace driving isn’t just about sales people or logistics. We rely on people using a range of vehicles to carry out jobs and roles for our organisations. It is fairly obvious that if somebody is going to a business appointment that this is “driving for work” but what is less clear is that anybody driving any vehicle – whether their own vehicle or company owned – to carry out business activity, is driving for work. Workplace driving covers any driving that is done for your organisation – even dropping off the post or collecting office supplies. It is imperative that we not only learn what our responsibilities are but also understand how to act upon them for the best interest of both our employees and ourselves.