Duty of care

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Duty of care

Does your business employ drivers for its fleet of cars or vans?

Perhaps you have employees who use their own cars in work time on company business?

In both cases, as an employer you have duties under the Health and Safety Act 1999 to ensure the competence and legality of those who drive on company business and for the safety of any company-owned vehicles.

Having a proper system for checking, training and monitoring drivers and checking vehicles can end up saving a business both time and money.

A driver who has been trained to drive efficiently and safely can save their company money on fuel bills, wear and tear on the vehicle, particularly the tyres and on the costs of accidents in the worst case.

Drivers

Firstly, a business should give all drivers clear, written statements of the company policy on using mobile phones, on driving under the influence of drink or drugs and on testing employees for these substances.

Ensuring they are safe to drive may mean that there should be a clear assessment of journey times and lengths and road conditions in relation to the hours worked and clear guidelines issued to avoid risks not only to their drivers’ own health but also to other road users that in the worst case of injury or even death could mean the employer might be liable for a charge of corporate manslaughter.

Secondly, when taking on a new driver, an employer should check their driver’s licence is valid, how long they have been driving and any accident history they might have.

All of this should be documented so that there is evidence that the employer has taken their duties seriously.

For employees who have not been taken on as drivers but may be doing so on company business and in their own cars, it is important to check that they too have a valid licence.

Vehicles

It goes without saying that the condition of tyres, oil, water, and bodywork of all company-owned vehicles should be checked regularly and records kept for each vehicle.

It makes sense that Road Tax and car insurance are up to date for those using their own vehicles, but it has to be done with their consent.

Improving driver performance and safety

There are many things an employer can do to help drivers to improve, starting with keeping a log for each driver of incidents, from minor wing mirror grazes to serious accidents and ensuring the log is checked regularly.

Monitoring ensures that problems can be identified and appropriate, if necessary tailored, training can be offered.

Training may include offering a session in how to set up their seat positioning safely in relation to the steering wheel and foot controls to meet their particular physiology. It is surprising how many people do not know how to do this and what is the ideal arrangement to prevent back and neck problems for the driver as well as ensuring they are able to control the vehicle properly.

Courses in safe and economical driving are also available and these can be very cost effective in reducing business overheads as mentioned earlier.

If an employee develops a history if being involved in incidents, even non-injury, it would be sensible to monitor them and do some further investigation to establish what the problems are.

Perhaps they would benefit from an assessment of their hazard perception, powers of observation and attitude, all of which can be tested online.

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