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Mobile phone law: minimising the risks

20th Nov 2003
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Two-thirds of company car drivers have not had any guidance from their employers on the forthcoming ban on using mobile phones on the move, despite the majority of fleet managers claiming they are 'actively discouraging' their drivers from using them. With a couple of weeks until the ban comes into force, 97% of fleet managers claimed to be discouraging the use of mobile phones and 92% said they had a policy in place.

The gulf between employers and drivers suggests a serious communication failure on the behalf of many companies, particularly as drivers are not ignorant about the new law and widely support it.

The survey, put together by Interleasing, revealed the strength of opposition among company car drivers to using mobile phones on the road. Half of business motorists (52%) want to see much tougher penalties for motorists caught using a mobile phone than those coming into force next month.

What should employers do to minimise the risks?

Alison Loveday of Berg & Co advises employers to do the following.

  • Adopt a pro-active approach.

  • Make it clear to all staff that they should not make or receive calls on the move using handheld mobile phones.

  • Conduct a risk assessment as to the potential risks and liabilities.

  • Draw up a mobile phone policy and ensure all employees are fully aware of its terms and trained as appropriate.

  • Review disciplinary procedures so they can discipline employees who breach mobile phone policies.
  • Employers should review Health and Safety policies. Employers might think that by providing hands-free kits they are meeting health and safety obligations, however, this may not be the case. Although it is not unlawful for a driver to use a hands-free kit when driving, numerous studies suggest that it is distracting and dangerous. The courts may take a dim view of an employer who disregards this and encourages its employees to use hands-free kits. If such an employee has an accident then it would be difficult for the employer to convince a court that he has provided a safe system of work.

    Employers who ignore mobile phone use whilst driving do so at their peril. Employer’s liability insurance premiums have risen dramatically over recent years. Claims from employees and third parties, injured as a result of using mobile phones whilst driving, will serve only to increase premiums further. Employers should therefore act now to ensure that they are protecting themselves as much as possible.

    It is estimated that business users cause one in three accidents in the UK. Many of these result from speeding or dangerous driving as employees try to keep to an unreasonable work schedule. Employees should therefore examine their working schedules. Are employees working excessive hours or being put under unnecessary stress or time pressures? Are they driving whilst tired or trying to fit in too many meetings in one day? All of these questions are relevant and should form part of the general risk assessment.

    Alison Loveday can be contacted on 0161 833 9211 or email Alison Loveday.

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