Numerous pieces of legislation in the last twenty years have made it more confusing for employers to know what they are considered responsible for.
Since the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2000 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, all companies, irrespective of size, are responsible for anyone that drives on behalf of the business. As an employer, you have an obligation to protect the health and safety of employees who drive for work.
That includes permanent staff, part-time employees, and agency supplied contractors. They could be driving fleet vehicles or simply driving their own vehicles to and from a business meeting.
Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, a vehicle is defined as a place of work. Your duty involves making sure that:
- Work related journeys are safe
- Members of staff are able to drive safely and
- All vehicles and vehicle equipment are fit for use and in safe condition
- You have considered others who may be affected by your employees’ work activities – in the case of driving for work, this includes all other road users and pedestrians
As the vehicle is considered part of the workplace, a death would mean a gross breach of the duty of care for an employee. The company would be expected to show the steps that they took to identify all risks associated and how they attempted to possibly avoid the situation.
It is vital that every business should implement a care policy for drivers, which communicates the do’s and don’ts to employees and will help avoid expensive claims of negligence; Directors may be prosecuted following a work-related collision if it is proven that they have not managed safety properly.
To protect yourself and your employees you will need to consider:
- Monitoring the amount of driving hours
- Planning safest routes
- Ensuring all vehicles used in business hours are suitable, safe and maintained
- Ensuring staff driving these vehicles are fit, healthy and without prohibiting medical conditions
- Prevent the use of mobile phones while driving
- Check all relevant documents to prove the driver and vehicle are suitable to drive
- Provide employee training that creates an awareness of health and safety on the road and latest company procedures.
Before you allow any privately owned car to be used for business, the employee must provide you with:
- Proof of a valid MOT certificate for vehicles more than 3 years old
- Proof of a valid driving licence
- A signed declaration that the vehicle is serviced and maintained to the manufacturers standards
- A copy of a valid insurance certificate including cover for business use
Manual checking of these documents will take up a lot of time and resources. Plus, the less diligent employee may not appreciate the urgency of the request for this information!
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