Driving for work
Download Prospect's guide on safe driving and work-related-road risk
Few organisations can operate without using the road, but for many Prospect members, driving is likely to be the most dangerous things they do while working. It is thought that between one quarter and one third of road traffic accidents involve someone who was driving for work.
According to Department for Transport figures, over 500 people are killed on the roads each year in accidents involving someone driving or riding for work, and more than 5,000 are seriously injured. These figures have failed to improve in recent years, but over the longer term the trend is more positive.
It is commonly said that most car accidents are due to driver error. However, research has shown that most crashes are caused by simple errors of perception or judgement by drivers who are usually compliant and safe. There can be a number of reasons for people making mistakes, including fatigue, time pressure and being distracted by in-car tasks.
What should your employer do?
While there are no health and safety regulations that focus specifically on driving, work-related road risk is no different from any other workplace health and safety risk. Employers have common law duties of care and statutory duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and its associated regulations.
Employers must take all reasonable steps to manage road risks and do everything reasonably practicable to protect people from harm.
Your employer is required by law to assess anything that may cause harm, and this will include dangers on the road. Risk assessments for work-related driving should follow the same principles as risk assessments for any other work activity. The aim is to make the risk of someone being injured or killed as low as possible.
Employers identifying hazards on the road should speak to staff or their representatives, as they are likely to have first hand experience of the hazards the need to be managed.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1999 place additional duties on employers to ensure that work equipment and machinery – which includes vehicles – is suitable and safe, and employees are properly trained in its use.
Safe driver, safe vehicle and safe journey
The HSE says that, when carrying out a risk assessment, employers should think about the three areas of safe driver, safe vehicle and safe journey to shape the control measures they should introduce. Many companies focus on driver-centred interventions such as training, and pay little attention to day-to-day working practices and pressures which require staff drive thousands of business miles a year, often at peak times, against deadlines.
Employers should consider issues such as:
- Do drivers have the skills, experience and knowledge required to drive safely?
- Do drivers have clear instructions on how to keep themselves safe?
- Do they know to carry out vehicle checks?
- Are drivers sufficiently fit and healthy to drive safely? Do they satisfy the eyesight and other health requirements of the Highway Code and the DVLA?
- Are vehicles maintained in a safe and fit condition?
- Are vehicles fit for the purpose for which they are used?
- Do they have driver aids and other safety devices, such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) or camera systems and proximity sensors?
- Is drivers’ health, and possibly safety, is being put at risk by poor ergonomics, eg from an inappropriate seating position or driving posture?
- Are routes planned thoroughly?
- Are schedules realistic?
- Are poor weather conditions considered when planning journeys?
The design and construction of cars has improved considerably in recent years, and there are new technologies available that can make driving safer. Employers in the market for new cars should consider purchasing safer vehicles.
Driving your own car for work
Employers owe the same duty of care to staff members who drive their own cars for work – something often called “grey fleet” – as they do to employees who drive vehicles which they have provided. However, health and safety law does not apply to people commuting, unless they are travelling from their home to somewhere that is not their usual place of work.
However, under road traffic law, it is an offence to “cause or permit” a person to drive a vehicle that is in a dangerous condition or without a valid licence or insurance. Therefore, employers may have procedures to ensure that all vehicles used for work, irrespective of who owns them, are safe and properly maintained, and are fit for purpose.
What you can do
Road traffic law has primacy over health and safety law. This means that when you drive, you are likely to be the principal dutyholder as far as road traffic law is concerned. There are at least 25 pieces of legislation, guidance and protocol relating to at-work driving, covering a range of matters such as speed, insurance, vehicle roadworthiness, mobile phone use and drink-driving.
There are things that you can do to protect yourself while on the road. They include:
- Take regular breaks to prevent fatigue. Almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related
- Never use a mobile while driving. You are four times more likely to be in a crash if you use your phone
- Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Remember: some prescription drugs can adversely affect your ability to drive
- Report vehicle defects and never drive a defective vehicle
- Inform your line manager of any health problems or personal circumstances that could make driving hazardous
- Have regular eye tests and, if necessary, use your eyewear
- Drive within speed limits and to the speed dictated by conditions, which may mean driving at less than the limit
- Carry out weekly regular checks of your vehicle, examining things like brake function, oil, coolant and windscreen wash levels, and tyre condition.
- Carry out checks before you set out on a journey, looking at issues such as whether the brakes and indicators are working, and that the mirrors are correctly positioned.