An overlooked area of workplace safety?
By 2020 the World Health Organisation predicts that death and injury caused by motor vehicles globally will increase by 65% and become the third biggest cause of death. Worldwide an estimated 1.2 million people are killed in road crashes each year and as many as 50 million are injured.
According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) driving for work* is the third riskiest job in the world, after deep sea fishing and coal mining. Road crashes account for 39% of all work-related deaths in the European Union and this number does not include those driving to and from work.**
Despite the overwhelming evidence, although companies frequently have programmes and policies in place to deal with various aspects of health and safety; road safety and driving for work is more than likely overlooked.
Most traffic crashes are predictable and preventable and there is substantial evidence to demonstrate that if interventions are implemented, they can help employees arrive home safe every single day.
Addressing the risks
Ensuring the safety of all employees should be the core to any business. In terms of road safety and driving for work this remit extends beyond responsibility for employees. Employers also have an obligation to protect other road users.
Driving for work is an extremely high-risk activity and it’s essential for businesses to address the risks that are most likely to cause harm. With at-work drivers over represented in road collisions, employers cannot overlook the potentially massive financial, moral, reputational and legal implications.
A company will invariably have a ‘duty of care’ and more often than not, a legal obligation to prevent harm. Whilst the employer has a duty of care, those employees who drive for work are also responsible. Reducing risk when driving on public roads can be challenging for employers. However the severity and likelihood of collisions can be minimised by putting control measures in place such as policies, procedures and training, to help employees understand their responsibilities and ensure their own safety and the safety of those around them.
In the UK the cost to employers of at-work collisions is estimated to be more than £2.7 billion a year**. Further research estimates that there were 15,545 fewer road deaths in the EU in 2011-2014 than if the 2010 rate had continued, this is valued at €30 billion in savings.
Aside from the obvious benefits to be gained by ensuring employees are safe when driving for work, there are also many examples available of clear financial business gains.
Where to start
In order to integrate road safety into existing health and safety frameworks, or indeed create policies and procedures from scratch; managing road risk needs to be recognised as a critical, mainstream health and safety issue.
It must be led from the top of an organisation with everyone aware of their responsibilities. This applies whether a company has a fleet of vehicles, irrespective of size of fleet/type of vehicle. Or uses ‘grey fleet’ – employees driving their own vehicles for work – each and every vehicle should be considered as a ‘place of work’. The same health and safety considerations should be applied as they would in a more obvious high-risk place of work where there is the potential for harm such as construction sites, manufacturing plants, warehouses, etc.
Build a case for change
Providing compelling reasons for integrating driving for work into a health and safety framework is key and there are three main areas which should be highlighted:
- Financial benefits
- Legal compliance
- Moral and social responsibility
Effective management of road safety can deliver clear benefits in terms of a business’ bottom line: insurance premium reduction, legal fees and claims from employees and third parties. Costs can also be controlled in relation to fuel usage and vehicle maintenance.
Different markets will have their own laws and regulations surrounding health and safety and duty of care; but whatever these obligations are, it cannot be denied that a business should protect its employees and those they come into contact with during their work.
Moral and social
The negative impact on business, were an employee involved in a collision, could range from employee downtime, serious impact on employee well-being and general staff morale. If this collision then involved members of the general public, the potential is massive for causing irreparable damage to a business’ reputation.
With the world’s eyes on reducing death and injury by road crashes, never before has it been more important for companies to be aware of the legal, moral and financial implications of not managing the risks associated with driving for work.
Start by creating a global framework
Management support is critical to controlling road risk in an organisation. Once this is established a clearly-defined policy needs to be created and communicated to ensure all employees are aware of their obligations.
A ‘good’ driving for work policy should outline the responsibilities for all levels of staff and should be regularly reviewed and updated. It should set out how employees identify and manage risks and take personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of those around them.
Ultimately a well written and communicated driving for work policy will help eliminate major collisions and prevent collisions that could affect the health and safety of a business’ people and those around them.
Understanding drivers’ risk and the benefits of taking the right measures
Driver assessment can be an extremely insightful activity for a business in implementing and maintaining an effective programme for driving for work. Understanding drivers’ skills, knowledge and attitude behind the wheel provides employers with an understanding into its workforce and also offers a basis from which to provide effective training to keep drivers’ skills and knowledge current.
In short, the present statistics on collisions involving those driving for work are incredibly high. It is undeniable that employers need to do so much more to begin to reduce the impact and dramatically reduce the numbers killed and injured on the roads.
Road safety needs to be given equal weight and importance as other areas of health and safety. Employers are totally accountable and need to be aware of the risks and their obligations. There are plenty of businesses which are able to demonstrate the obvious benefits of integrating road safety into their health and safety framework – a quick search on the internet will reveal many success stories.
Should you require any information on integrating road safety in to your health and safety programme, please contact us.
*Based on an average 25000 miles per year
** Brake – Essential guide to fleet safety for SMEs and employees