Health and safety must be a focus as fleets return to roads, says Venson
Fleets should remind company car and van drivers of their health and safety policies to help employees prepare for returning to work in the coming weeks and months.
The warning comes from Venson, which said that a well-communicated health and safety policy could significantly reduce the burden of business driving post-lockdown.
The fleet management and leasing specialist added that drivers may not be ‘road-fit’ to carry on as before, while also cautioning that traffic levels could be higher.
When the UK emerged from its first lockdown in 2020, road traffic congestion was reported to be far higher than in the previous year, and the same is anticipated for 2021.
Alison Bell, marketing director at Venson Automotive Solutions, said: “Those employees who have either been working from home or furloughed this year are likely to have used their vehicle less and taken shorter journeys when needing to drive. It is therefore important that both drivers and vehicles are road fit.
“Vehicles used solely for business may have sat idle for some time and not undergone the necessary safety checks that might usually have been carried out on a day-to-day basis, such as battery, windscreen wipers, tyre pressure, oil level, loads, etc. Individuals who have failed to manage the safety of a vehicle risks fines, penalty points and a ban from driving. Employers can also be held liable for failures to manage road risk under health and safety law.”
To ensure that drivers themselves are road fit, Venson says that it may be worthwhile to get employees to retake the company’s driver safety training programme, if deployed, before they start driving again. It is also a good idea to refresh employees on vehicle pre-use safety checks.
Bell continued: “Furthermore, to ensure drivers can adjust to getting behind the wheel and don’t become fatigued, employers need to make sure they closely manage journey schedules. This will mean employees have sufficient time to complete their jobs, avoid speeding, do not drive excessive hours, get adequate breaks and rest periods and, avoid driving at peak accident times. It has been a tough year already for everyone and it is essential that businesses comply with health and safety measures to get staff back on the road safely.”
Key points to address in a ‘Driving for work’ health and safety policy:
- Set a clear company expectation that all staff will drive safely when driving for work-related reasons. Including not making or receiving calls, send or read texts (or e-mails) or surf the internet on a phone, or other device, while driving.
- Consult with staff, or safety representatives, about the organisation’s relevant policies, for example ‘Driving on company business’, ‘Driving company vehicles’ and the ‘Health and Safety Policy’ etc.
- Review policies regularly to make sure they stay relevant.
- Outline the dangers of using mobile devices while driving and address the issue with drivers who are witnessed using devices while driving and explain the company position.
- Provide training if appropriate to underpin and reinforce the required standard (and document that you have done so). Hopefully education will correct the behaviour but you may wish to consider managing it formally through a disciplinary procedure.
- Lead by example through senior managers who should be beyond reproach. It will be difficult to credibly hold the company line if senior personnel adopt a “Do as I say, not as I do …” approach.
- Ensure that, when travel is required, there is built-in planning of safer journeys, for example allowing longer journey times and planning in suitable rest stops.
- Review work practices to ensure that the company message is being reinforced. It is important that local departmental practices are not operated counter to the overarching instruction to drive safely.
- Where there are incidents record and investigate them. This will help to identify if there are any areas of concern which need to be managed.
- Encourage drivers to raise concerns with their line manager.
The Health & Safety Executive also has its own guidance on ‘Driving at Work, Managing work-related road safety’. To access it, click here.