Driving for work - a business risk all firms need to consider

Is work related driving something you consider to be a key health and safety issue? Is it on your list of significant business continuity issues? If not, it should be, says Saul Jeavons.

Around a third of all road deaths and around a fifth of all serious injuries involve someone driving at work. in fact, RoSPA calculated that, after deep-sea fishing and coal mining, driving 25,000 miles a year on business is the third most dangerous work activity in the UK.

Tackling the issues involved requires an understanding that driving for work increases risk in excess of the increased exposure and a willingness to address factors which lead to this increased risk. Research by TRL found that for motorists who drive 80% of their annual mileage for work, there is a 53% higher risk mile-for-mile of being involved in an injury accident compared to drivers who only do private mileage. Around a quarter of all drivers fall into this high risk group. 

Guidance from HSE published in 2014 is clear on the legal position. It states: “Health and safety law applies to work activities on the road in the same way as it does to all work activities. You need to manage the risks to drivers as part of your health and safety arrangements".

In some countries commuting is included in the health and safety statistics, although this is not the case in the UK. However even here there are cases where the boundaries between at-work driving and commuting are not clear cut. For example in April 2006 a company was fined £30,000 and a further £24,000 in costs after one of its workers was killed in a crash when driving home after a third consecutive shift of nearly 20 hours. It emerged that the driver had worked 11 days without a day off prior to the fatal crash, for an average of 17 hours a day. The case was the first of its kind in the UK because the firm was forced to admit that it had breached health and safety legislation even though the collision took place outside working hours.

One area in which some organisations within the industry have significant vulnerabilities is that of employees using their own vehicles for business (known as the ‘grey fleet’). These vehicles are commonly used to travel to meetings and conferences as well as to occasional site visits, but tend to be managed much less well than vehicles owned or leased by the company. One survey which examined almost 6,000 company and privately owned vehicles used for business found that:

  • Almost 60% of the private vehicles used for work were not properly maintained
  • Around a third were not properly insured for their business use and 52% of companies did not have a policy to check insurance details of their ‘grey fleet’ vehicles
  • Over 70% of maintenance problems identified were tyre-related and should have been picked up during basic safety checks
  • 91% of drivers admitted to not making any safety checks, and 98% of drivers said their companies did not verify whether or not they did so
  • By contrast just 0.2% of the company owned vehicles inspected were found to be unroadworthy.

Managing the issues around drivers, vehicles and journeys does not need to be overly onerous or complex, but like any other issue of business risk, it does need managing. Quite apart from the obvious human value in preventing pain or death, a failure to do so risks prosecution and fines, higher than necessary insurance and repair costs, and the loss - on a temporary or permanent basis - of business critical members of staff. Putting some simple and proportionate measures in place can make a big difference for any organisation, regardless of size.

To find out more about the risks and how to mitigate them, book a place on one of the forthcoming ACE health and safety events.

Saul Jeavons is a director of The Transafe Network Limited.