Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
October 26, 2023

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources


Driving Success  

In our regular legal column from Eversheds Sutherland, we hear from Principal Associate, Philip Crosbie, who looks at driver safety and how safety management affects engagement.  

Philip Crosbie is a Principal Associate in Eversheds Sutherland’s Environment, Health and Safety Team.

Increasing workplace focus on stress and mental health reminds us that often the lines between ‘work life’ and ‘home life’ can be blurred.  When do we decide that ill health is caused by workplace factors, attributable to an individual’s personal life, or a combination of the two?

Similar concerns were raised when we started to tackle the issue of ‘driving for work’ around a decade ago.  How could we approach those who drove regularly in their personal life and seek to remind them of speed limits and signage, or even worse, question their competence to drive?

Given the recent shift to home working, and potentially the shift back again, it is worth revisiting the activity of ‘driving for work’ and what good safety management looks like.

What is ‘driving for work’?

The first challenge in any organisation is to promote a consistent understanding of what ‘driving for work’ is. Typically defined as: Any journey for business purposes, other than your normal commute to your normal place of work.

Importantly, there should only be one ‘normal’ place of work. As individuals work more frequently from home, and abandon the concept of an ‘anchor office’, we may see more ‘driving for work’ journeys as individuals visit different locations as part of a normal week. Potentially, all of these journeys may go beyond the normal commute, with the requirement on the employer to manage the same.

One issue we frequently encounter is employers who employ an arbitrary ‘gateway’ to a driving activity being considered ‘driving for work’.  This may be notionally based on:

  • the provision of a company or lease vehicle;
  • the ability to reclaim mileage costs or the provision of a ‘car allowance’; or
  • the number of miles driven each year.

In physical safety, it would be irrelevant how many times a ladder was used in a workplace, or who owned the ladder. It is the activity of climbing the ladder that requires management and the same thought process should be applied to ‘driving for work’. In our experience, those who drive for work infrequently may pose the greatest risk as they could be more susceptible to timing pressures and distractions.

How could it be managed?

New technology driving change in road safety 3Gently.  We must remember that any individual driving for business will hold a driving licence (or at least, they should do). Suddenly imposing corporate requirements are unlikely to land well.

Employers risk effective engagement and implementation when a policy recites a long list of vehicle checks, some of which are simply not within the driver’s ability. We regularly push back on ‘pre-use’ checklists advising drivers to confirm appropriate brake fluid and oil prior to every business journey. We also see little value in advising drivers of the risks of particular weather conditions. Drivers are ultimately responsible for the roadworthiness of the vehicles they use, and lengthy policy documents risk overlooking some of the most vital elements of any management process.

We propose that there are three priorities for any employer:

  • Licence Checking – A regular process of checking driver licences through an online database provides assurance to an employer that the basic competency is held. Rather than require checks after a journey has been undertaken (i.e. associated with a mileage expense claim), it is often more prudent to perform checks at the point of employment, providing assurance that all individuals have been checked.
  • Insurance – Whilst not necessarily making the activity any safer, most ‘social, domestic and commute’ policies will not cover driving for work. Employees would be well advised to seek to add ‘business use’ before their next journey.
  • Journey Planning – Some of the longest journeys undertaken will be those conducted for work. Employers should remind drivers of the need to build in appropriate breaks, and should consider how fatigue can be best mitigated through the use of hotels and public transport.

What benefit does it have?

New technology driving change in road safetyAs with many safety initiatives, those pursuing change should question the safety benefit behind any changes. An often cited example is a requirement for vehicles used ‘on business’ to be of a certain age (typically less than three or five years old). Whilst there are no doubt safety improvements through each generations of car, the suggestion that a 10 year old vehicle warrants a mandatory replacement appears ill-founded, particularly where the employer does not assist with the requisite replacement cost.

The use of mobile phones whilst driving is a further hot topic, bridging the divide between legal compliance and ‘best in class’. The safety research is clear that use of ‘hands free’ devices still presents a health and safety risk and therefore banning the use of such devices would be preferable. Nevertheless, the commercial impact of not being able to talk and drive may tempt others away from a blanket ban. Anything in between, a ban with exceptions, represents the worst of both worlds.

Driving Culture

 The workplace culture around ‘driving for work’ presents the biggest tool for change. The expectations of travelling staff, and the conversations around driving are telling:

  • Is there genuine support for those on long journeys to take an overnight break and does the system of expenses make booking simple?
  • Do we celebrate those that undertake long journeys ‘for the good of the company’?
  • Is there pressure to arrange conference calls during perceived ‘downtime’ whilst an individual is driving?

Much like changing the approach to mental health, there needs to be a ‘soft sell’ surrounded by engagement and nudging into the right behaviours. Anything else risks putting the brakes on progress made so far and driving the workforce away from compliance.

Philip Crosbie is a Principal Associate in Eversheds Sutherland’s Environment, Health and Safety Team. He can be contacted on [email protected].

Driving for Better Safety - Free eBook download

This eBook will guide you through some of the key understandings you need to be able to manage driver safety effectively and, at the end, provide a series of free resources you can access to help you ensure your own driver safety management system is robust, legally compliant and in line with industry-accepted good practice.

Download this eBook from Driving for Better Business and SHP to cover:

  • Why do we need to manage driver safety?
  • Duty of care – a shared responsibility;
  • Setting the rules with a driving for work policy;
  • Managing driver safety;
  • Ensuring safe vehicles;
  • Safe journeys and fitness to drive;
  • Record keeping;
  • Reporting;
  • The business benefits of good practice;
  • Additional resources

Related Topics

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments