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July 14, 2020

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Work Related Road Risk

Managing Work Related Road Risk as employees return to work post COVID-19 Lockdown

Dr Jim Golby, Director of Research and Customer Experience at Applied Driving Techniques, highlights the opportunities and benefits for Employers as their staff begin to return to work.

Smart motorwayThe coming of COVID-19 has resulted in a reduction of road vehicle activity back to levels associated with the 1950s! Combine the much-anticipated return to work with the restrictions to public transport and the difficulties related to car sharing schemes due to social distancing requirements, the number of business journeys driven by employees is likely to significantly increase beyond pre-COVID-19 levels.

This will result in:

  1. More inexperienced business drivers;
  2. Increase Grey fleet (more employees using their own vehicles for business);
  3. Employees who normally drove for business pre-lockdown will not have driven seriously for several months, so many are likely to be ‘out of practice’;
  4. Increased use of Pool Cars.;

How could this impact your business?

The predictable rise in Grey Fleet and higher risk drivers is of particular significance to employers post Lockdown. HSE Regulations encompass all employees driving on company business, irrespective of whether the journey is undertaken in a company sourced, hired or driver owned vehicle and means the employer has a clearly defined legal obligation to ensure all of their drivers are kept safe when driving on business and that their vehicles are safe to be driven and both the driver and vehicle are legally entitled to be on the road.

Driving requires regular practice. It can be reasonably predicted that as more people return to the road there is likely to be an increase in incidents over and above pre-COVID-19 levels. Making drivers aware of this possibility and providing them with guidance and training will help mitigate the problem.

Andrew Steadman, National Fleet Audit Manager for the Post Office, said: “Protecting the safety of both our drivers and other road users is of paramount importance to the Post Office. Since the on-set of coronavirus our drivers have in fact actually been busier than ever and so we have recently launched a new ‘Driver Safety Training Programme’ across all our Depots and business areas. Nothing is more important than ensuring each of our staff gets home safely every day”.

What next?

The Health and Safety Executive (UK) and HSA (Ireland) first designated ‘Driving at Work’ as an ‘at work activity’ in 2004. Unfortunately, audits that we have completed on behalf of many organisations indicate that it is still an area of employee safety that is poorly managed. This is especially true for Grey Fleet drivers.

The lack of a robust Work Related Road Risk process means that some employees could be driving for work illegally. Employers may also be permitting employees to drive vehicles that are potentially uninsured for ‘business use’, unsafe due to lack of regular servicing/maintenance or with no Road Taxed/MOT’. Historically we have found that about 12% of drivers fail in one or more of these categories.

As they plan for a post-Lockdown return to work companies have an ideal opportunity to review their current Work Related Road Risk practices and remedy any concerns.

Andy Brierley, Group Director of The Lanes Group, said: “The Lanes Group are fully committed to providing the safest possible working environment for all of our colleagues 24/7. We have recently launched a new ‘WRRR Compliance, Safety and Training Programme” to help enhance the safety and wellbeing of all of our on-business drivers and would encourage all Employers to ensure they are fully addressing their WRRR responsibilities and playing their part in keeping our roads as safe as possible”.

What does a best practice Work Related Road Risk process look like?

Work Related Road Risk is a significant business risk and as such should be addressed with its own Policy within the Employers wider HSE approach.

The Work Related Road Risk Process should:

  • Assess driver competence and provide targeted training;
  • Confirm whether the driver is legally allowed to drive on company business (including insurance checks);
  • Ensure that any vehicles used are safe to drive (and insured for business);
  • Include a ‘specific authorisation’ that the employee can drive on business (‘Permit to Drive’);
  • Be undertaken annually;
  • Provide an audit trail;
  • Provide regular communications to reinforce the importance of Work Related Road Risk and highlight the Employers commitment to protecting its staff.

Benefits of Managing Work Related Road Risk

Driving is recognised as the most dangerous activity many employees will undertake at work. Vehicle related incidents cost employers financially; including repair costs, insurance premiums, costs associated with absence, potential claims and prosecutions. Not to mention the physical, emotional, and mental impact on the individuals involved, their family, colleagues and friends.

It follows that and a comprehensive, driver specific and targeted Work Related Road Risk process is likely to be the most impactful safety and financially beneficial initiative that any organisation can undertake.

Julie Davies, Group Fleet and Plant Manager for Amey, said: “Driver safety is a huge focus for Amey and we witnessed a 38% reduction in vehicle incidents in just 12 months as a result of our increased focus on Work Related Road Risk/Driver Safety. We have also achieved a significant reduction in incident and insurance related costs, improved operational efficiency and less vehicle downtime. Amey will also be providing our drivers with additional driver safety support and training as they start to return to the road.”

Jennifer Yaxley, Head of Safety – Cities and Places for Jacobs, added: “We are committed globally to the safety of our all employees who drive for work. This is a commitment supported from the very top of the business with a focus on each driver as an individual. By continuously and proactively enhancing Work Related Road Risk activities, in partnership with ADT, we have significantly reduced the number of miles drive for work and reduced the number of motor vehicle incidents. We are currently exploring the benefits of new technology and have a detailed “Return to Business Driving Post Lockdown” Plan ready for launch”.

How can you prepare for the easing of lockdown?

  • Review your current Work Related Road Risk process;
  • Ensure your Work Related Road Risk process encompasses Grey Fleet drivers;
  • Confirm a Senior Level ‘Responsible Person’;
  • Consider bespoke training on individual driver risk profiles;
  • Develop a “Return to Business Driving Programme” to support driver who have been off the road for several weeks/months;
  • Decide what your Company Guidance will be reference the use of Public Transport/Car Sharing Schemes etc.

In Summary

We know that driving is a high-risk activity, and work ADT has carried out with clients shows that on average nearly 12% of company drivers are driving illegally (often unwittingly). This is a significant risk for employers.

Post-lockdown and with the likely increase in new company drivers using their own vehicle plus with many drivers returning to business driving ‘out of practice’ this risk (to both employers and wmployees) will only increase.

Now is the ideal time for Employers to address how they manage Work Related Road Risk and protect their staff and corporate reputation before most staff return to driving at work on business.

Dr Jim Golby is a member of the European Transport Safety Council’s Expert Panel and Brake’s Global Fleet Champions Steering Group and has been involved with Work Related Road Risk since 2004.

If you missed it, Emma Evans, Senior Associate, Jonathan Cowlan, Health & Safety Manager, and Jonathan Fritz Trainee Solicitor – Pinsent Masons LLP, wrote a recent peice for SHP on How comply with Work Related Road Risk regulations.

This article was originally published in Safer Highways Magazine.

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

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