Driving at work; top gear (or first gear?)

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Whether your organisation operates a fleet of delivery vehicles or has staff driving to appointments and meetings, driving is a significant risk to employees at work. In 2014/2015 Health and Safety Executive figures suggested an alarming estimated 430 killed and 5,500 seriously injured. And these are the lowest estimates. So what should a company do to protect their workers and themselves?

At EEF, as a health and safety consultant advising industrial and commercial companies, we see a number of companies adopting best practice driving policies, additional driver training and good maintenance regimes for vehicles. However, these are the exception rather than the norm; many companies have yet to engage first gear!

Here are a few considerations when crafting effective driving at work policies and procedures. (Note: This advice does not cover specialist fleet management or HGV/LGV operations.)

 

Policies & Risk Assessments

Contrary to popular belief, more is not always better when it comes to health and safety policies. The goal for the policy and risk assessments is suitable and sufficient. The policy does not need to be a copy of the Highway Code – although your policy should refer and/or link to it. Highlight the specific and key issues that your staff should be aware of when they drive for work, especially in relation to your own work requirements.

The HSE have published very useful guidance on conducting risk assessments for driving at work in INDG382. This tells you to consider; The Drivers, The Journeys and The Vehicles. The risk assessment should therefore provide a review of the arrangements you have in place and where there are potential gaps that can be identified a priority for your company’s operations.

EEF Consultants can certainly help guide you through this process in a sensible and proportionate way.

The driving policy should include requirements for routine checks of vehicles as well as the need to schedule work sensibly with the planning of trips and the use of communications systems such as phones.

Driving-training 

Phone use

Many companies have addressed hand held mobile phone use since the recent banning of such use. This often includes the requirement to minimise hands-free use. However, it is pointless having such a driver orientated requirement if it is not suitably communicated to office staff and other colleagues, who may continue to constantly make calls, with a deep sigh or a later nag when they are not answered immediately! It is important that policies are in place – and respected and implemented by all staff. Roads police officers will always point out that following an accident, phone records can be gift wrapped evidence. Whether in front of the police or HSE, how would your company explain a driver participating in a 45-minute conference call, for example?

Increasingly, evidence shows that even hands-free phone use is a distraction and one can speculate that further legislation may, in time, follow. In the meantime, the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Management Regulations have it covered, and companies should ensure their policies are sound.

 

Driver training (but I’ve done my L test…?)

These days, more companies are addressing the need to deliver some refresher training for drivers. Several approaches are available from the likes of the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ (IAM) Roadsmart and AA for example. These can include individual online assessments of hazards perception and Highway Code knowledge and potentially on road training with qualified Instructors. As a member of the IAM myself who has taken this additional safe driving training, I know this is good practice and very helpful in reducing risks to staff, other road users, and in reducing insurance repair bills that so many companies almost feel they have to take for granted.

Under H&S law, vehicles do technically come under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations as well as the general requirements elsewhere, so training and refresher training should be up for consideration within the risk assessment process.

I hope these observations will give you some food for thought, and help you get your organisation’s commitment to work related road safety into a good first gear, or otherwise move up through the gear box.

Author

Health, Safety and Sustainability Consultant

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