Managing risk on the road and advice for handling inquests
Natalie Puce and Sally Hancock from insurance risk and commercial law firm BLM Law focus on driving offence advice for fleets and the lessons to be learned from inquests.
‘Driving offences: The fleet perspective’ – Natalie Puce, Partner, Safety, Health & Environment team
Please tell us a little about your experience with occupational driver safety.
Natalie Puce (NP): “I started at BLM in 2005 as a Trainee Solicitor and have worked here ever since, being promoted to Partner in 2014. My work involves representing a broad range of customers from the corporate and public sectors, both individuals and organisations, on effective response to police and regulatory authority’s investigations and prosecutions. A large part of my work involves advising on fatal/serious accidents on the road and providing support in the immediate aftermath, all the way through to charging decisions.”
What are the most common offences that firms may find their employees being charged with?
(NP): “The offences under the Road Traffic Act 1988 are the most common offences which drivers involved in a road traffic incident are investigated for. This includes causing death by dangerous or careless driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving, dangerous driving and careless driving.”
What processes can organisations put in place to best manage risk and ensure compliance amongst their driver fleet?
(NP): “A Driving at Work policy is essential which has particular regard to matters such as driver competency and training, vehicle safety and journey planning.
“If not already used by an organisation, consideration should also be given to the use of technology to manage risk such as dashcams and autonomous emergency braking.”
What is the impact on both the organisation and the driver of a driving offence being committed while at work?
(NP): “Collisions have a ripple effect. Immediately there are reputational issues to consider, particularly given the use of social media and bearing in mind that collisions are now often reported within minutes. There may follow a lengthy police and/or HSE investigation of the organisation for potential health and safety offences and even corporate manslaughter. The driver is also likely to face a police investigation for a road traffic offence and a custodial sentence is a real possibility.”
Are there any groups of drivers or particular organisations that are most susceptible to driving offences?
(NP): “Figures suggest that company drivers are 49% more likely to be involved in a road traffic incident than the average driver. Of those, drivers of large vehicles such as bus and coach, HGVs and delivery drivers are most at risk, the issue with blind spots on such vehicles inevitably make driving more difficult for those in charge of these types of vehicles.”
‘Inquests: Lessons to learn from the coroners court’ – Sally Hancock, Partner in the Safety, Health & Environment Team
Please tell us a little about your experience in inquests and industrial tribunals.
Sally Hancock (SH): “I am a partner in the BLM regulatory team, having started as a trainee in 2000. I have extensive experience in dealing with a wide range of regulatory offences and a large part of my work is dealing with inquests. I advise and represent corporate clients, large public sector clients and individuals on all aspects of inquests, extending from the day of the incident and dealing with initial crisis management to ongoing investigations and representation at the coroner’s court.”
What are the most likely reasons a company or individual may become involved in an inquest?
(SH): “A company or individual may become involved in an inquest for a wide range of reasons. These can be straightforward such as being the driver of a vehicle involved in a fatal road traffic collision or the death of a resident at a care home, or more complex where dealing with deaths following a fire or even a terrorist attack.”
If the worst should happen, how best can an organisation handle the process most effectively?
(SH): “Planning and securing the right kind of support at an early stage enable an organisation to best handle the inquest process. Having the knowledge to contact the right people at the right time is vital in protecting your position and reputation, and having understanding of the inquest process and the implications of being involved in an inquest provide the tools to action this.”
What can an organisation do in terms of helping the authorities during an inquest?
(SH): “Once an organisation’s involvement in an inquest is confirmed, assisting the coroner and doing this promptly is a key component. To achieve this preparation is crucial, which involves establishing and maintaining communication between relevant individuals, identifying any areas of potential conflict, gathering documentation and advising potential witnesses of their involvement in the process.”
With employees who drive for business more likely to be killed at work than deep sea divers or coal miners, driver safety is a vital business consideration.
Download this eBook from Driving for Better Business and SHP to cover:
- The danger of the roads;
- Comparing road safety in the UK to the rest of Europe;
- Decreasing risk: Avoiding accidents;
- Road safety best practice;
- What is fleet risk?
- Managing work-related road safety.