IF ONE of your vans is involved in a crash you could find yourself facing criminal prosecutions and/or civil actions.
You may have really good health and safety management across the core business, but when it comes to vehicles and drivers it can be much weaker.
That was the message from health and safety lawyer Michael Appleby, of London-based law firm Fisher Scoggins Waters, to fleet decision-makers at the inaugural meeting of Fleet Service Great Britain’s Achieve Driver Management User Group.
Achieve is the company’s umbrella brand with a range of components – Achieve Driver Management, Crash Management, Maintenance Management, Fleet Manager, Management Services, as well as Achieve Fleet Service Partnership.
The Driver Management User Group is focused on providing support, advice and mentoring on all aspects of managing drivers, vehicles and journeys, by sharing knowledge and best practice.
Appleby, highlighted that many organisations went through the compliance ‘tick box’ of checking the validity of employees’ driving licences and perhaps encouraging defect checks to be undertaken, but failed to translate the information gathered into practical management.
Data collected via the Achieve Driver Management programme is able to provide fleet decision-makers with detailed insight into the driving performance and behaviour of individual employees so remedial action can be taken.
Appleby said: “Too many companies view road risk as managing compliance and not managing the risk itself. Employers should have the basic elements of managing safety in place, but frequently there is very little actual day-to-day management.
“When things go wrong businesses could be massively exposed because they do not have the answers to questions posed by investigators.”
Business journey crashes – either in a company-provided vehicle or an employee’s own vehicle – could be investigated by the police or Health and Safety Executive while coroners, in the event of a fatality, may also be influential.
Coroners now have a statutory duty to consider writing a Prevention of Future Deaths Report to any organisation or person where they believed action should be taken to prevent future deaths.
Appleby said: “Coroners have a wide discretion as to the scope of an inquest. I can foresee the situation where there is a fatality in a work-related road crash and a coroner wants to enquire how a business is managing its vehicles and how data is being used to manage the fleet and drivers.”
He also warned that employers could find themselves caught up in a work-related road safety investigation as a consequence of an associated incident.
“Investigators will want to know how a business manages safety and may find weaknesses in respect of managing vehicles, drivers and journeys that were a contributory factor to any incident.
“When I interview company directors and other employees the speed at which requested documents are produced is a good indication as to how well safety is managed in the business.”
He also told the User Group that while both criminal prosecution and/or civil action could result from a work-related car or commercial vehicle crash, the rise of social media meant the “court of public opinion” was also becoming increasingly influential.
“People can become very vocal, particularly through social media, if there is an incident and a business is thought to be uncaring towards its workforce. I can see problems in that scenario.”