Your Legal Exposure
Any organisation, in the public or private sector, that expects any employee to drive on business, now has a number of critical legal obligations to fulfil. And the law doesn’t distinguish between company car drivers or those using their own vehicle, a rented car or even a pool car – the employers’ obligations remain the same.
As the blame culture continues to gain traction in today’s ever more litigious society, victims of road accidents involving business drivers are increasingly looking to employers for proof of the vehicle’s suitability and roadworthiness together with details of what driver training has been provided. Recent legislation has also introduced the possibility some draconian penalties for the worst offenders.
In summary the relevant legislation includes:
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
This law introduced the motor vehicle as an extension of the workplace An employer must treat it in the same way that they would treat any other piece of complex or dangerous machinery which means checking its suitability, providing appropriate training, and being able to demonstrate a clear audit trail of actions taken. Passing the UK driving test would not be classed as sufficient training for a sales person expected to drive 25,000 miles a year, racing to and from meetings under pressure and who had just crashed his car while answering his phone on the way back from taking clients out for lunch! It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that their staff have been trained, not only to drive in a safe and responsible manner, but also to recognise and avoid potential hazards and distractions that may prevent them from doing so.
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Any business or organisation with 5 or more employees must undertake a written assessment of the risks to the health and safety of those employees while they are undertaking their work activities. This includes driving while on business. The company must be able to point to procedures it has put in place to make sure it does not ask, intentionally or otherwise, that an employee puts themselves at risk in a car on company business, and that the employee is trained to act responsibly when in control of the car.
Corporate Manslaughter Bill and Corporate Homicide Act 2007
For the first time, organisations can now be found guilty of Corporate Manslaughter if an employee is found responsible for a fatal road accident. While still largely untested, fines are expected to be in the region of one whole year’s turnover which has the potential to destroy any business prosecuted successfully.
Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008
This latest piece of legislation opens up the possibility of imprisonment for Directors and Senior Managers who have been found guilty of extreme negligence, typically where a fatality has resulted from these Managers failing to address an identified risk. In the case of business driving, this might reasonably be expected to include instances such as an employee with a history of accidents and speeding offences, and therefore flagged as ‘high risk’ but who had received no formal driver training from his employer.