How to Protect Your Company
“Our advice to keep your company and your employees safe”
As an employer, it’s always been your responsibility to ensure your employees are working in a safe and healthy environment.
However, cars, vans and trucks are all now classed as places of work, which means they fall under the provisions of the Health and Safety Act.
It’s widely accepted now that the most dangerous thing most employees do whilst at work is drive.
In future, you as the employer will be held directly responsible for the actions of your employees and for their safety whilst they are driving on Company business whether in a Company supplied vehicle (of any kind), or even when driving in their own vehicle. That’s the law.
Recently Transport Minister Dr Stephen Ladyman dispelled any doubts about employers’ responsibility to drivers covering business mileage in private cars, saying ‘If drivers are at work, you are responsible for them. That’s it.’
There is already a precedent of a company being prosecuted after a crash involving an employee on business using their own private vehicle. The prosecution decided the vehicle the employee was using was “not fit for purpose”. So this is an area you have to attend to also.
Furthermore, your responsibility does not stop at just your employees; it encompasses any member of the public that they could possibly come into contact with, as they can take your company to court also.
If the worst happens and your company is taken to court and it is demonstrated you have not taken measures to ensure you have done all that was reasonably possible to avoid the situation, you risk huge fines, imprisonment or possibly as a result, even loss of your business, all because of a traffic accident.
Many companies do nothing, just trusting to luck and hoping it won’t happen to them. Today, you just can’t do that and we hope the following will provide you with some guidance as to how you can put simple procedures in place to safeguard your employees, the public and of course, your company.
There has always been a strong moral case for companies to follow a structured fleet risk management programme. However there is now a clear legal obligation as well.
But all you have to do is demonstrate that you have done what’s reasonably possible to ensure that anyone driving your vehicles, or driving their own vehicles on your behalf has an adequate level of competency and that they are doing so legally, and are in a suitable vehicle that has been properly maintained.
Basically, it’s very easy to see this as a covering our backsides thing to protect ourselves from charges which might even be as serious as corporate manslaughter. This said, we do actually have a moral obligation to our employees to ensure we are not asking them to do something they are not competent in, or they are uncomfortable with, or at a time when they have not had adequate rest. Ignoring this may lead to injury or possibly even death?
Before we give you our “Top Tips” for what you should do to protect yourself and your employees, let’s just look at some pretty awful statistics.
- There were over 2.5 million collisions on the roads of this Country in 2003, resulting in 40,000 people being injured and 3,500 being killed
- 30% of these accidents involved people driving whilst at work and that’s over 800,000 driving at work accidents in just one year.
- It is estimated that 65% of all Company vehicles will be involved in some sort of collision in the next 12 months
- 95% of accidents involve human error, so can be avoided, but almost 80% of Companies have no risk management policy in place, whilst almost 60% have provided no driver training.
This is not an either/or option, you must protect yourself and your Company and the only way to do this is to put policies in place, so in the event that the worst happens, you can give yourself the best defence by showing the courts that you did all you could to prevent the situation.
OUR TOP TIPS:-
- Check your employee’s driving licence, not just when they join you, but ideally every 3 or 6 months, but certainly every year. This will ensure a driver isn’t using a vehicle whilst on your business having been banned for example. Don’t forget, if a driver is driving while banned, the insurance you provide on the vehicle will also be invalid, leaving you the employer to pick-up the pieces. It’s possible to lose your licence so easily now and in many cases, that might result in loss of your employment, so do you suppose every employee is going to be honest with you?
- Get a senior staff member to go out with each new employee, to check their driving, but not just round the car park, go out for a proper ride of at least 30 minutes or so. Go out again with the employee if they have been involved in an accident. A car or van is a machine, why would you train an employee to use other equipment, yet assume their competence in using a car is 100%.
- Ensure each driver knows their responsibilities in terms of regular checking of certain areas of their vehicle, such as tyres, brake fluid, lights & indicators. Make sure they know their vehicle servicing intervals and present their vehicle for regular servicing when it is required. Put this in your company handbook and get the employee to accept it as his or her responsibility.
- It should be compulsory for employees that drive on business should attend “free” eyesight tests at least every 2 years
- Employees should be provided with a document laying out your companies policy on speeding, alcohol, licence requirements, use of mobile phones etc.
- Employees using their own vehicle for business use should demonstrate to you that their insurance covers business use and this should be checked again, each time the employee renews his car insurance (just in case they’ve chosen to change insurers).
- Where an employee is using their own vehicle for business use, you (or ideally, a qualified person) should inspect both the vehicle and you need to look at its service history to satisfy you that the vehicle being used is mechanically safe and fit for purpose.
- Fatigue is a major factor in road accidents. You should never knowingly place an employee in a position where their work schedule may result in them driving whilst fatigued (such as attending a late night meeting, then requiring a very early start the next day).
- You should never set an employee a deadline for arrival at a location, perhaps an appointment for example that results in them having to drive at above the speed limit or in some other reckless fashion to achieve.
- Never allow casual use of one of your company vehicles to a driver that does not normally drive your vehicles without having first checked their licence and taken as many of the above precautions that you can.
- Never ask an employee (even as a one off) to drop something off, or deliver something in their own vehicle without running through the relevant checks above.
All of the above might seem insignificant, but imagine the employee “in court” following an accident blaming you his employer for the early start they were forced to make after a late night meeting, or that you forced them to attend an appointment without leaving enough time for the journey, or that you never told them that he had a responsibility to look after their vehicles routine checks or ensure it was serviced at the right time.
Imagine them telling the court that no one ever checked their driving when he joined the company, or their insurance (if they were using their own vehicle), or that no one ever checked the standard of their driving when they joined the company, just taking it as a given, or telling the court that they had always had poor eye sight, but needed the job and well, the company never checked. Or that no one bothered to check their private car they was using for business to see if it was “fit for purpose”, as it didn’t belong to the company.
You can go further to protect yourself and there are many companies that offer on-line assessments of an employees driving ability and they evaluate the risk posed by that driver.
I guess its up to you how far you want to go, but as an employer, all you have to do is to demonstrate you have tried where possible to show care to your employee and in doing so to anyone he might come in contact with. You have put measures in place to ensure they are driving a safe and well maintained vehicle and are qualified to do so.
As for the vehicles themselves, obviously more modern and well maintained vehicles remove a good part of the pressure and deciding to get them using Contract Hire which for a fixed monthly payment can include all the regular servicing, repairs and safety checks and remove a lot of worry allowing you to spend your time running your own business rather than devoting hours to ensuring the vehicles you own are up to standard. Call us for an example quote.
Using our “Top Tips” will help you avoid an employee being involved in an accident or being injured in a road crash, or indeed injuring someone else and should the worst ever happen, you will have the knowledge that you did all you could to avoid it and have a clear defence that you did what was reasonable to protect everyone involved.
There are other benefits, as accidents are expensive, so by avoiding them, you save money. A clean record will get you cheaper insurance, so again you save money and if your drivers are driving properly, you will save in fuel costs also.