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Road Safety Week - How to Reduce Employer Liability

20th Nov 2014
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Driving at work is one of the most dangerous activities  as a quarter of all vehicle mileage travelled annually on UK roads is for work purposes and a third of all crashes involve a vehicle that is being used for work. Every week around 200 road deaths and serious injuries involve drivers who are at work.  Corporate manslaughter law that was implemented in 2008, dictates that an employer can be held responsible for the actions of their employees whilst driving at work.  A company can be prosecuted and face huge fines if they have done nothing to reduce liabilities, therefore, there are certain steps that need to be taken and possible financial costs.  This week (17-23 November) is Road Safety Week so in this blog we provide some employer tips for driving at work and managing the HR issues.

Driving at Work Policy

An employer should have a driving at work policy and procedure in place that is well communicated to staff.  This should entail the employer explaining all the details either on a 1:1 or group basis and ideally having the employees sign a paper document to show agreement which is then held on file. The policy should contain clauses on licence checking, safety, breakdowns, use of mobile phones, driver breaks, training, maintenance, accidents, fines and disqualifications, smoking and mobile phones.  A list of authorised drivers should also be held to include company vehicle drivers and employees who drive their own car on company business. 

Check licences

An employer should check the validity of licences on a regular basis by taking a photocopy to be held on the personnel file.  How regular that can be is up to the employer’s judgement but ideally at least once a year.  If an employee provides a copy of a clean licence, an annual check should suffice.  However, if the licence shows quite a few points then an employer may need to check more regularly.  It is very easy to rack up additional points particularly with driver who has a careless history.  If the employee is disqualified from driving they will not be insured.  If they have an accident whilst driving a company vehicle the company is liable and not the insurance company.  If a disqualified employee drives their own vehicle on company business and has an accident if a claim is progressed in the civil courts the employer may be pursued.  The employer may, therefore, incur financial costs.

It may be quite onerous to check the validity of licences with regular photocoping, however, it is essential for an employer to do so to reduce liability.  An alternative to checking and photocopying licences is to use form D888/1 to gain written permission from the employee to contact the DVLA about licence validity and driver entitlement.  The form is sent off with a £5 fee.

It is important for employers to take ownership of this process.  An employer can not guarantee that an employee will tell them if they have been fined, endorsed or disqualified particularly if their job might be on the line.  Whilst the matter may be dealt with using the disciplinary procedure should untoward behaviour come to light, the repercussions for the company are much wider.

For employees that drive their own car on company business copies of MOT, tax and insurance documentation should be photocopies annually and held on file.

Fit and Safe to Drive

Employees should be requested to inform their line manager if they are fined, endorsed or disqualified.  Failure to do so should result in use of the disciplinary procedure.  They should be fit to drive, wearing prescribed glasses or contact lenses as appropriate.  Employers can offer to pay for employees eye tests and contribute to glasses if they are essential drivers.  Eye tests can be organised on an annual basis.  Employees should take care when taking any prescribed drugs that may affect their ability to drive and should inform their line manager of any medication that may cause them to be at risk.

Company vehicles should be regularly maintained with responsibilities assigned to key members of staff.  This should include servicing, MOTs, documentation updating and essential checks for drivers before starting a journey.  Employees should be well aware of how to deal with a breakdown and who to contact within the company should this happen.

If an employee is involved in an accident in a company vehicle many employers require the employee to pay the insurance excess.  This can be made a contractual obligation.  Employees should take responsibility for any fines, traffic offences or other breaches of the law committed when driving.

Driver Training

To reduce liability an employer can provide safety and efficiency training.  The Energy Trust holds a list of driver trainers who can deliver often 100% funded sessions on site.  If done on an annual basis employees are educated in how to drive safely.  

Tool box talks are also another way to educate drivers with short timely sessions that focus the mind on awareness related to speed, braking and motorway safety for example.

Providing training reflects well on a company’s reputation and keeps costs down. 

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