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Driving at work – what you need to know

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), research estimates that up to a third of all road traffic accidents involve someone who is at work at the time. This could account for more than 20 deaths and 250 serious injuries every week.

Driving at work is a common practice for many firms. For some businesses, driving is at the heart of all that they do: taxi companies and fleet haulage, for example. In other firms, individual employees may have been provided with their own company car, or there may be a multi-purpose business vehicle (a 'pool car' for example) based on site for staff use as and when needed.

Whatever the prevalence of driving at work within your organisation, it is vital that a formal health and safety process is in place to manage it.

The main reason for limiting the chance of accidents involving people driving at work is clear: risk to life.

Also, the cost of repair and insurance, plus the cost of working days lost to injury can also have an impact. Effects can be even broader in scope: think about company reputation, goodwill, relationships with clients and members of the public.

Firms can easily slip into the trap of thinking that as long company vehicles have a current MOT certificate and that drivers hold a valid licence then enough has been done to ensure the safety of both the driver and other people on the road.

This is not the case.

Employers are legally responsible for employees who drive whilst at work. The 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act requires employers to ensure, as far is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees and others affected by their actions including driving at work.

Businesses need to consider what steps are required to ensure that their employees use the road as safely as possible. A key way to do this is to implement a formal risk assessment process for driving at work.

Risk assessments are a formal appraisal of what work practices and activities have the potential to cause people harm. It is a simple process by which firms assess whether there are suitable and sufficient procedures in place to ensure safe working, or whether more needs to be done.

It is not an intricate or overly complex process; all it requires is effective forward planning, a common sense approach and the support of management and staff.

A useful risk assessment breakdown sees it split into three parts: driver safety, vehicle safety and journey planning.

Provide your drivers with a handbook that contains general road safety guidance and explains to drivers what their specific responsibilities are. Tie this information in with your company policies and procedures.

Also, implement a rigorous vetting and induction process for drivers. New recruits should be thoroughly checked to make sure they are properly licensed, medically fit and competent to drive. Ensure they are thoroughly trained and make regular assessments to make sure all these criteria are still being met.

When choosing company vehicles, ensure that they are suitable for their intended purpose and that the utmost importance is placed on safety features such as ESC, ABS and Euro NCAP ratings.

Apply a similar risk process for your staff to the vehicles: undertake regular inspections for roadworthiness and safety features.

Another thing to consider is whether driving can actually be avoided. When assessing a future journey, think about whether it's really necessary to drive at all. If it can be eliminated, do so.

With the plethora of communications tools now at our disposal, it's perfectly possible to conduct business meetings via telephone or video, and alternative, and possibly cheaper, forms of public transport may be available.

Managing work-related driving will have a demonstrable impact across your company.

You'll be working to reduce the risk of accidents, have reduced running costs because of better driving, cut down on paperwork and reduce stress and improve morale.