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June 25, 2012

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Road accidents warrant closer HSE involvement, MP urges

The long-running debate about the HSE’s ‘limited’ remit in respect of work-related road traffic accidents was back on the agenda last week, as MPs discussed how the Government could help reduce the number of driving deaths.

Speaking in the Commons on 20 June, Labour MP Meg Munn referred to figures on work-related deaths and injuries provided by Mike Penning MP, under-secretary of state for Transport, in response to a recent parliamentary question.

She told the House: “He (Mr Penning) said 24 per cent of serious injuries and 30 per cent of road deaths in 2010 could be linked to work-related road traffic accidents. As there is no requirement to report work-related deaths [on the roads], that is likely to be an underestimate. Even using those figures, we are talking about, on average, 11 deaths and 105 serious injuries every week.”

Questioning why deaths and injuries resulting from such accidents are not counted as workplace deaths and injuries, she lamented that a “full picture” is not being provided, adding: “We do not know enough about why and how people at work die on the road, or how many members of the public are killed by people who drive for a living.”

Turning her attention to one serious health problem, obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) – a breathing condition that can stop people from getting proper restful sleep, resulting in tiredness during the day – she pointed out that medical experts estimate that between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of lorry drivers are affected by the condition, and other sleep problems.

“There are 400,000 large-goods vehicle drivers in the UK, which means a minimum estimate of 40,000 affected drivers,” explained Ms Munn. “The number of road accidents, with the resulting deaths and serious injuries, can be substantially reduced by increasing the number of drivers who are diagnosed and successfully treated for this condition.”

She pressed the Government to ensure that “the HSE’s expertise is brought to bear”, and said organisations that employ drivers as part of their undertaking could contribute significantly to improvements in road safety by screening drivers for health issues in the workplace.

Responding to the MP’s concerns, Maria Miller, under-secretary of state for Work and Pensions, stressed that a number of agencies have a role in enforcing and regulating on road safety matters, not least the Police, as well as the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency and the DVLA, which, among other responsibilities, leads on the medical fitness of drivers.

She also underlined that drivers can experience a broad range of health conditions that could affect their capabilities, such as diabetes, heart conditions and migraines, and this means employers and employees should think “more generally” about their health.
“Given the broad range of health issues involved, it is difficult to set out a definite requirement for each one,” said the minister. “We have to remember personal responsibility and the fact that the legal and moral obligation of all drivers to drive safely and to report any health condition to their employer exists in law.

“OSA is treatable when identified, and we need to ensure that employers are aware of the condition and that they have processes in place to monitor all sorts of health conditions, including OSA, in employees who drive as part of their work.”

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Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago

I think it’s a bit misleading to focus on HGV drivers re OSA. How about a survey of Audi/BMW/VW-driving reps to see how many of them suffer from OSA, before hitting the haulage industry – again!

Bob’s 1st point is the telling one; where is the money coming from? HSE struggles to investigate ~200 workplace deaths pa; how will it cope with an extra 1000? The police have enough to do in the imediate aftermath of an RTC without finding the resources to investigate 1000+ H&S policy & procedures

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago

I agree re-concentration on speeding.
A quick cheap fix would be to give HA Traffic Officers the power to stop and fine for obvious vehicle defects; e.g. lights, windscreens, tyres.
I’ve long argued with the safety camera lobby that ‘punish the employee’ does not feature in the safety hieracrchy of control, i.e. design change, safety device, warning device, training, warning label.

Bob
Bob
8 years ago

Given the number of work related RTA`s, where doe`s this MP propose to find the resources within HSE to fully investigate these incidents.

And do they (HSE) ignore non fatal accidents, which could presumably lead to mutiple fatalities if unchecked?

“Near Miss” scenario applies?

The policing of roads should be left to the Police and maybe aided by appointment of Transport H&S Specialists as applicable?

Bob
Bob
8 years ago

Interesting numbers game.

Cost of thorough investigation and recovery of said costs, aginst the clean up and recovery cost to the tax payer for these RTA`s. And does this include non professional drivers?

I don`t suppose that the DOT even consider the cost, let alone the longterm cost of incapacity etc therafter?.

Cost benefit analysis only benefits those who can be arsed to accurately work it out, which itself costs a bloody fortune, too often then decide to leave things alone?

Bob
Bob
8 years ago

I work a 12 hr shift, and can travel > 2hrs to work and back and thats on a good day. And I am not alone.

Given the geography of persons seeking employment miles from home to earn a crust seems to be the norm, the rate of fatigue must be an infuencing factor for consideration.

I know that by Friday I am completely cream crackered.

On ocassion I have had to stop to for a rest, but mostly I am keen to get home so usually plod on.

Bob
Bob
8 years ago

RIDDOR was ammended recently and there is still no requirement to report RTA`s vehicle to vehicle or vehicle to pedestrians.

You do need to report unloading / loading incidents though.

So, you can drive unsafe but not load or unload unsafely whilst at work on a public rd?

I can`t forsee how this will be changed given the governments current “anti” H&S stance and the pressure from big buisness to let them self regulate, any attempt at HSE intervention will be unwelcome by both?

Ceverest
Ceverest
8 years ago

This is a massive subject and HGV drivers are merely a small part. Then you get company reps or company car drivers but then even more murky is the driving own car on company business! I have seen cars being driven on company business without MOTs, cracked windscreens, unroadworthy tyres and just plain old. These may be fine for commuting but as soona s you start using them for work the law is quite clear – it becomes your workplace and your employer is responsible for it.

Dghdgh
Dghdgh
8 years ago

The most important point around professional drivers relation to road deaths is not the employee but the innocent member of the public. As the true collation between the two categories-professional driver-member of the public would display the need for HSE to take their responsibilities seriously. The police can prosecute the driver who is responsible, not the company for breaching duty of care. The problem would not exist if companies realised their responsibilities and HSE ensured compliance.

Major
Major
8 years ago

This is an aspect of safety management worthy of urgent appraisal.

I regularly see and demand remedy of vehicles (cars, vans and trucks) parked on site which are overloaded or carrying materials such as HFLs/EFLs and compressed gasses. Should they be involved in an RTA the potential consequences (loss of life, injury, damage) + endangering the emergency services, may be considerably increased.

This in my opinion is part of the on-site monitoring regime for any safety practitioner

Mschilling
Mschilling
8 years ago

RTA fatalities remain an enormous and as yet little addressed area of work related safety. This had galled me ever since I started working in the H&S field: How can so many fatalities be simply ignored by the HSE?
It also seems that the majority of safety measures on the roads relate to speed reduction. To my mind we should be looking at better training (all test centres have pass rate targets….) and simpler, logical road layouts, rather than making routes difficult to slow vehicles down.

Mschilling
Mschilling
8 years ago

Well said Andrew – if the rozzers and the councils would treat road safety like workplace safety – ie by using accepted control hierarchies – we would stand some chance of addressing the apalling number of fatalities on our roads. If we continue to block routes with humps, bumps, chicanes and squared off corners all we will do is make driving more dificult for road users. They have used the quick fixes and us safety folks all know quick fixes don’t work long term.

Smith
Smith
8 years ago

This subject is a minefield. The HSE, as is, cannot, and should not, resource it. The Police could easily record and database if any vehicle in an accident is “at work”. Hard drive tachographs with an auto reset could easily be standard in all vehicles at minimal cost. The time will come when all vehicles will be GPS speed restricted.

Stephenhillary
Stephenhillary
8 years ago

No mention of all the sales reps, area managers, engineers of all sorts etc. who are on the road every day.

There should be a basic set of rules for drivers at work and then it can be stepped up as the vehicle classification changes.

I would like to see tachographs for all drivers at work.