Employees who fail to comply with their employer’s best practice approach to occupational road risk management could find themselves in court, says a legal expert.
Many companies have highlighted that they are meeting vehement employee protests when asking for personal information and vehicle data – particularly in relation to privately-owned vehicle driven on business – when introducing at-work driving safety measures.
Some organisations using Fleet Support Group’s RiskMaster occupational road risk management have introduced their own ‘get tough’ policies in a bid to ensure employees sign-up to obtain a Permit to Drive. They include:
• WHSmith and the OyezStraker Group refusing to pay mileage expenses
• The Labour Party banning employees from driving on business
• Other organisations refusing drivers’ permission to hire a car
However, employees who continue to evade their employer’s safe driving policies and procedures could find themselves charged under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act if they are involved in a crash.
Section seven of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act says that all employees have a duty while at work to:
• Take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and others who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work
• Co-operate with their employer or any other person, so far as is necessary, to enable their employer or other person to perform or comply with any requirement or duty imposed under a relevant statutory provision
Kevin Basnett, a specialist employment lawyer and partner in west country-based Goughs Solicitors and an adviser to FSG, said: “Individual members of staff have an obligation to keep themselves safe.
“Staff who have been consistently asked by their employer to comply with reasonable requests for information to enable them to meet their best practice compliance obligations and are then involved a crash, perhaps because they are using a mobile phone, could be prosecuted under the Act.”
Prosecutions can be carried out in either a Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. Employees found guilty under the Act in a Magistrates’ Court could be punished with a maximum £5,000 fine or 12 months jail or both. In the Crown Court the maximum sentence is two years jail, an unlimited fine or both.
Fleet Support Group chairman Geoffrey Bray said: “Opposition to measures to improve road safety among at-work drivers must be overcome. We need to change some employees’ attitudes towards road safety. Compliance with all company policies and procedures should be written into employment contracts.”
Mr Basnett added: “The legislation is something that companies are not using in a bid to ensure that employees provide the required information. However, it is a law businesses should use to ensure compliance.
“Boards of directors should ask themselves who is running the company; they or their employees? Firms must explain the rationale behind the safe driving measures they want to introduce and firmly regulate the process involved. If employees still fail to conform then more drastic steps should be taken including disciplinary measures.”
Some of the biggest employee protests have come at heavily unionised employers, but the TUC backs occupational road risk management.
A TUC advice document says: “Work-related road safety must be a higher priority for employers and be integrated into employers’ arrangements for managing health and safety at work. Employers need to control work-related road risks and by doing so could save hundreds of lives every year.”
Public service trade union Unison overcame concerns through a series of meetings and regular communications and has successfully introduced RiskMaster.
Ian Smith, who introduced the initiative at Unison and is also now an adviser to FSG, said: “The TUC view is important because many businesses are unionised. Employees should be reminded of the TUC view and the fact that the union they belong to is affiliated to the TUC which supports occupational road risk management.”