On 6 April 2008 the government will implement the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, which will have huge implications for organisations with employees who drive either company or their own vehicles on business. Sandra Beale explains.
Following the implementation of the Corporate Manslaughter Act, organisations, not individuals, can be prosecuted and fined for management failures that lead to the deaths of employees or others or for failures to provide reasonable duty of care.
Ten people each day are killed on the roads in the UK and companies need to ensure that they are covered for every eventuality. Too many businesses ignore safety issues with their employees.
With the Corporate Manslaughter legislation, companies of all sizes will be affected and needs to demonstrate having considered their duty of care, particularly if is a court case as this could help their defence against any alleged claim of corporate manslaughter. This can be done in several ways.
Companies should consider implementing a driver handbook or as a bare minimum a formal safety policy as part of the employee handbook providing key guidelines. The four main areas a safety policy should cover are:
- Technical safety and roadworthiness
- Control of mobile phone use
- Control of driving periods/taking breaks
- Advice on safe driving practices and formal training
Companies need to regularly check vehicles are roadworthy and well maintained. Legislation was introduced in 2003 related to the use of mobile phones whilst driving, however, many companies do not have a formal policy in place which prohibits the use of mobile phones when driving nor do they issue a hands-free kit and this should be considered.
Driver hours should relate to the Working Time Directive with accurate records kept and the legislation adhered to.
Many companies offer no driver training to their employees and, where driver training is offered, it is generally based around in-vehicle training rather than classroom training on safety issues such as low concentration, breaking speed limits, driving on auto pilot and multi-tasking.
Photocopies of driving licences and documents relating to tax and insurance should be kept on file and regularly checked for legality. With the rising number of speed cameras on the road many drivers are incurring points which eventually could cause them to lose their licence.
Accidents should be fully investigated to check the facts that employees are giving are true and, if not, use the disciplinary policy should be considered.
To improve safety, research has shown that opinions favour introducing a ‘Well Driven?’ type scheme or the use of satellite monitoring systems to monitor in-vehicle behaviour.
The contract of employment should contain elements relating to driving such as:
- What type of vehicle the employee is entitled to drive
- Whether it is available for private use and whether there are restrictions on its use
- Who is allowed to drive the vehicle
- when it will be replaced (typically based on age or mileage)
- Who is responsible for the cost of fuel, maintenance, tax, insurance and repairs
- Whether the car user is required to make a contribution in return for private use of the vehicle
- Whether there are circumstances (such as extended leave or during a driving ban) when the vehicle may be withdrawn
- The user’s responsibilities in respect of the vehicle.
All this has implications for keeping the correct paperwork to defend any claims. The Corporate Manslaughter legislation should persuade companies to take responsibility for the health and safety of their employees on the road, but there are also other benefits of adhering to the legislation such as fewer days lost to injury or work-related ill health, reduced need for paperwork, fewer vehicles off the road for repair, better driving standards, increased profits due to fewer missed orders, less chance of employees being banned and promoting a culture of health and safety.
To summarise as a minimum companies need to have a safety policy in place as part of the employee handbook, incorporate contractual terms relating to driving and keep careful records on personnel files of appropriate vehicle-related documents.
Additional initiatives such as proactive health and safety will improve the defence should a company end up in court.
For more information about development of policies and driver handbooks, driving training and health and safety issues please contact Sandra Beale of SJ Beale HR Consult Ltd, on 07762 771290, or email [email protected], or visit: www.sjbealehrconsult.co.uk