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Driving for work - how can HR drive it up the business agenda?

Press Articles

As an HR professional, you know your organisation’s duty of care responsibilities for people who drive for work… but how do you get this important issue on your leadership team’s agenda?

Firstly, ensure everyone understands your organisation’s responsibilities.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to take appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected by their activities when at work. “This includes the time when they are driving or riding at work, whether this is in a company or hired vehicle, or in the employee’s own vehicle.”

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires “the risk assessment to be reviewed periodically to ensure it remains valid. Employers should consider the risks to employees on the road in the same way as for those in a workplace.”

For clarity, health and safety law does not apply to drivers commuting to work; but many commuters are killed each year. We believe companies should therefore consider a corporate and social responsibility (CSR) approach covering all their staff who drive.

Secondly, identify the business risk and director’s responsibilities?

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 was a landmark in law.

Under the Act, an offence will be committed where failings by an organisation’s senior management are a substantial element in any gross breach of the duty of care owed to the organisation’s employees or members of the public, which results in death. The maximum penalty is an unlimited fine and the court can additionally make a publicity order requiring the organisation to publish details of its conviction and fine.

One of the most high-profile ‘driving for work’ examples is Baldwins Crane Hire Limited convicted of corporate manslaughter and fined £700,000 plus costs in December 2015 after being found guilty of corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences when one of their employees was killed while driving a company vehicle.

However, the real game changer has been the massive increase of health and safety fines since 1 February 2016. The courts now consider culpability, seriousness and likelihood of harm and the size of a business and its turnover when imposing fines. Research by health and safety specialists, BLM, says that companies across the UK have paid out over £61m in health and safety fines throughout 2016 – almost 2.5 times more than 2015. An example includes Travis Perkins Trading who were fined £2m with costs of £115k when a customer died after being crushed by a vehicle.

Your leadership team need to understand that the financial risks of H&S fines are now very significant, let alone the reputational and brand risk that a serious incident might create.

In essence, health and safety law places duties on organisations and employers, and directors can be personally liable when these duties are breached. Members of the board have both collective and individual responsibility for health and safety.

Thirdly, what are the HR benefits from running a driving for work programme?

The organisation in general, and HR in particular, benefit from the success of an occupational road risk programme. These include…

  • Delivering corporate and social responsibility: Driving for work is considered to be the third most dangerous occupation after deep sea fishing and coal mining by RoSPA. Employees who wish to assess and train their staff can not only increase driver safety and reduce fleet costs but also gain a reputation as an employer of choice
  • Supporting recruitment: Showing potential new recruits that their safety and well-being is on the top agenda may encourage them to join your organisation at the interview stage
  • Enhancing staff retention and well-being: Finding, then keeping, good staff is often a challenge. By investing in a life-skill such as driving, you can show you’re putting the employee at the heart of your organisation so they are more motivated, positive and engaged
  • Managing the grey fleet: A company’s duty of care responsibility encompasses not only company vehicle users but also colleagues who use their own cars for business purposes. You have the same duty of care responsibilities to grey fleet drivers as all your other staff who drive for work.
  • Having robust policies: It’s important that HR are involved in the development of Driving for Work policies to ensure it links with employee terms and condition seamlessly and is auditable. In particular, HR may need to consider any potential consequences if a driver refuses to be compliant, e.g. removal or suspension of the car entitlement or cash allowance
  • Understanding collisions trends: HR can work with leadership on developing suitable carrots and/or sticks to encourage better driving behaviour e.g. league tables for success vs charges to drivers who crash. Also HR could provide post-collision training to managers to help debrief their staff after an incident as well as driver training for staff themselves to build up their confidence
  • Helping visiting international colleagues: HR can support overseas colleagues who may not have driven on UK roads before. For example, HR could introduce UK familiarisation training to visitors before being given the keys to a company vehicle

Finally, does training work and stack up financially?

Some companies take a tactical, ‘tick the box’ compliance approach while others see driving for work as strategic for their business where an investment in training delivers real and tangible business savings. We recently analysed one of our customer’s pre- and post-training collision costs for high risk drivers. Initial results found a 77% reduction in the number of collisions in the year post-training, the cost per collision reduced by 27% and an overall collision cost reduction of over 80%. Great training also improves fuel efficiency and lowers service, maintenance and repair (SMR) costs.

“Initial results found a 77% reduction in the number of collisions in the year post-training, the cost per collision reduced by 27% and an overall collision cost reduction of over 80%.”

By implementing these four steps, DriveTech believes that HR can show to their leadership team that driving for work should be on the top-table agenda for safety, legal, brand and especially financial reasons.

DriveTech is the world leader in fleet risk and safety management, and driver training. It is also the UK’s largest provider of driver offender retraining courses.