The Importance of Driver Safety at Work: A Scenario
Picture this: you are a company director; it’s nearing the end of your working day. It was uneventful. You have been productive, but not much happened. You’re just about to leave to get home and rest for the evening. You get to the door; you hear your phone start to go. Do you answer? You may just choose to step out of the door and let it ring. You may decide that the phone call could have an impact of driver safety at work so needs to be answered.
You decide, you will answer.
One of your drivers was on the way back to the office and the driver has hit another vehicle from behind.
One of your fleet vehicles is now damaged from the collision with the vehicle in front, another vehicle has rear end damage. The driver is talking quickly. You hear there was a family in the vehicle and some children in the backseat.
Thankfully nobody is seriously hurt. But now you have the headache of when comes next.
You start to put into action your fleet accident protocol, telling your managers what has happened and getting ready for the driver to come back in. But now all the driving safety at work questions start to come to mind.
How fast was the driver driving when they rear-ended the vehicle?
Was the driver driving distracted/using their mobile phone?
When was the last time the driving record was checked?
Is the driver’s license valid or suspended?
Has the driver had any other incidents in the past?
How about any incidents in the past year, including near misses?
When was the last time the driver went through any sort of driver safety at work training?
Is the vehicle in good condition?
When was the last time the vehicle was checked for maintenance?
In short, what was the driver’s risk profile? Was a driver risk assessment carried out?
Driver Behaviour Is the Biggest Source of Fleet Driver Liability
Being prepared for a situation like this is a key part of driver safety at work.
Not carrying out a driver risk assessment may be deemed negligent entrustment. This is the act of entrusting a vehicle with a driver who the owner knows could use the vehicle to cause harm to others based on the driver’s previous behaviour.
This negligent entrustment and other health and safety laws have become a problem for some fleet managers. The continued checking is extra work load but companies have an ongoing duty of care to all the drivers in the workplace. This requires checking the driving licences every six months.
Any company that has drivers, whether it be fleet cars, vans, grey fleet, any pool vehicle, buses or HGV’s is at risk of these types of prosecution. How prepared are you to defend yourself and your company in the event of the above incident or any other incident should one happen?
If any prosecution occurs as a result of an employee driving a vehicle for work, the prosecution solicitor will ask to review your written driver safety at work fleet policy guidelines and how well it was enforced. This is why it is so important to have good records kept for any of your staff that drive for work. Anything not being carried out safely will likely render the fleet and its company vulnerable to negligent entrustment or negligent retention allegations. This is a breach of the HSE guidelines and can be prosecuted.
Defending Against Negligent Entrustment
There are several ways this can be prevented. You need to have a proactive approach to fleet driver liability. This means working in advance to improve your fleet safety rather than reacting after the fact to incidents that occur. This helps to positively impact a company’s risk profile in the long run. Any employer should know who they’re entrusting their valuable and very expensive assets to.
You will most definitely be liable if you knew or should have known that an employee was unfit to drive a vehicle or that a vehicle is unsafe. This means that companies must be able to show they have done everything they reasonably could to prevent accidents. If not, anything you have done or did not do might be held against you and be liable for.
How to Keep Compliant? Here Are Some Steps to Keep You on The Right Road
- Background check: When recruiting, companies should conduct a comprehensive background check on every person hired for a job role. This should include a driving licence check. This is the first step to building your records and shows that you are proactively monitoring your fleet drivers. To do this correctly, you need to check through your trainers or an approved checking service.
- Training: Once the candidate has been hired, all drivers should receive on-going training, especially if they have been identified as high risk in your pre employment driving assessment. You should provide training that is a mixture of classroom and behind the wheel training to enhance awareness, planning and control. This is an effective way to stress how important you take the safety of your staff and your corporate value. This on-going training demonstrates that a company takes care of its staff and the drivers are keeping up-to-date on new policies, rules and regulations of the roads and technologies, such as EV’s.
- Fleet Safety Program: The way to deal and defend against any prosecution is by establishing policies and procedures that are enforced to ensure a safety work environment. If an employee is involved in an incident and the prosecution comes knocking on the door, you need to be ready. You need to be able to produce documentation of any inappropriate actions that were due to the driver. You should be able to prove that you did all you could to address the incident and improve the driver’s risk level.
- Continuous driver monitoring: By doing an annual check of a driving licence doesn’t cut it these days when you have constant (and affordable) checking available through fleet checking systems. These have also been proven to alert fleet managers of any driving convictions in a prompt timely manner. The choice is clear when you compare the costs of a licence checking and training, to all the costs of a vehicle accident and a prosecution that can seriously damage a company’s reputation.
Whilst continuous monitoring of a driver is not the only step to take, this is a start to eliminating risk. It is one of the best precautions a company can take and being proactive to defend themselves in a prosecution.
Having good robust policies and procedures in place shows that your company is proactively trying to prevent any accidents and showing your duty of care to your staff.