The first discussion document to seek the public's views on at-work road safety was issued on March 1 by the independent Work-related Road Safety Task Group, through the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The document is seeking views on whether at-work road risk (driving or working on or by roads) should be managed by employers in the same way as other occupational health and safety risks, and whether there should be a specific test for occupational drivers.
According to RoSPA, about 3,500 people are killed on our roads and a further 40,000 are seriously injured every year. It has estimated that between a quarter and a third of all road deaths may in some way be linked to people driving for work.
The RoSPA initiative coincides with news that a driver who accidentally derailed the London to Newcastle express train on February 28, killing 13 passengers, may face a £40 million insurance claim.
Drawing on Office of National Statistics data, the researchers concluded that between 25% and 33% of all serious road traffic incidents involve someone driving professionally.
Richard Dykes, Task Group chair and Group Managing Director, Mail Services, the Post Office, says:
Members on the Task Group believe there is a strong social and moral case for action, and sound business reasons for employers to do more. While we need to find out more about causes, the figures tell us we must explore what can be done by employers and others to prevent road traffic accidents happening in the first place.
Accidents involving heavy goods vehicles, buses, company car and vans, despatch riders are all obvious examples. Pedestrians at work such as postal workers, refuse collectors and utility workers are also at risk.
The Task Group is due to recommend measures to reduce at work road traffic incidents. The purpose of these will be to test the idea that if employers were to manage their on-the-road work activities in the same way as they do their health and safety risks in the workplace, there could be significant cut in road traffic incidents.
Roger Bibbings, RoSPA Occupational Safety Manager says:
This problem has been neglected for far too long. New guidance is needed. But if employers blatantly put drivers and other road users at risk by having unsafe systems of driving then tough action is required, including prosecution for directors.
This reasoning is echoed by Christopher Green, Senior Solicitor with responsibility for Safety, Health and Environment at Hammond Suddards Edge:
If it can be shown that no policy or assessment was in place, or that the standard of the employee's conduct had not been identified in advance, an investigation could follow into collective management failure. This could lead to proceedings for corporate manslaughter with the possibility of individual liability and a term of imprisonment for the directors of the employing company.
Indeed, road safety is not just a question of introducing legislation. Management processes must also be introduced – just as with other health and safety legislation – to ensure that accidents are avoided.
Unless organisations have established and communicated road safety polices and objectives – unless they have a planned approach to risk control informed by risk assessment and targets – and unless they can monitor road and safety performance – they will not be able to achieve a cycle of continuous improvement, continues Bibbings.
Some of the recommended areas of company policy are assessing risks to workers who drive or who work by the public highway. Implementing better safety instruction and training, ensuring that work scheduling is reasonable, selecting the right vehicles for the job and maintaining them properly should also be considered.
Employees should also be made more aware of their responsibility to drive safely. If an employer has a traffic safety policy in place, but the employee does not abide by it, he or she could face disciplinary action as well.
Paul Bratt, Partner at Hammond Suddards Edge, explains:
You can't control what a person does. If you implement a transport safety policy and an employee breaks it, they should face disciplinary action. Employers should protect themselves by policing the systems that they have in place. For instance employees may want to work longer hours coming up to Christmas to earn more money – if they go over the stipulated hours they should not be allowed to work.