During the last reporting year, around 450 people were killed on UK roads while they were driving for work. That’s around three times the number of deaths that occurred in fixed workplaces such as factories or construction sites.
These numbers might come as a surprise to some, because these deaths rarely get reported in the media, but driving is the highest cause of occupational injury related fatality.
Despite these figures, many organisations pay scant attention to road risk. A cursory license check to make sure you’re ‘road legal’ and a boilerplate Road Risk Policy buried in amongst all the other Company Policies might be as far as most organisations go to manage their road risk.
Compare this to fixed workplaces which are often flooded with risk assessments, safe systems of work, audits, training, supervision and probably much more besides.
You might also be forgiven for thinking that road risk is unavoidable. After all, the roads are a public place and beyond your control, right?
To an extent, yes you’re right, but there are plenty of things you can do to work with your drivers, improve your vehicles and plan your routes to reduce the risk and make your drivers much more likely to avoid a serious accident.
Your efforts will have many knock-on benefits too, such as:
- Reduced risk of speeding or other offences amongst your employees
- Reduced wear and tear to company vehicles (tyres and brakes etc.)
- Reduced fuel consumption (this is often a significant saving, around 10-15%)
- Less sickness absence from musculo-skeletal problems on long journeys
- Better brand image (if your vehicles are liveried)
- Improved employee recruitment and retention
- Better driver morale
Here are ten things you can do to improve road safety in your organisation:
1 – Carry out a thorough Occupational Road Risk Assessment specific to your organisation
2 – Create a comprehensive and relevant Occupational Road Risk Policy written specifically for your Organisation (don’t use an ‘off the shelf’ solution!)
3 – For the best risk reduction, consider avoiding driving altogether and use public transport – the accident rates are simply much lower. If you can’t achieve this in full, just use public transport as much as you can
4 – Make sure your Policy covers all the key parts of Occupational Road Risk – vehicle safety, licenses, training, route planning, journey times, posture, alcohol, speed, mobile phones, seatbelts, rest breaks, smoking, eating and drinking, carrying loads and emergency situations, as a minimum. There is probably much more!
5 -Communicate your Policy to everyone in the organisation and embed it properly into the Company culture, from top to bottom (there is nothing more damaging to a safety culture than senior management ignoring it while forcing it upon everyone else)
6 – Educate all employees on safe driving, regardless whether they drive for work or not. Don’t ignore commuting as a potential risk to your employees, even though they are not technically ‘at work’ at the time. Simple things to include could be:
- Carry out a quick tyre, windscreen wash, lights and oil check every day
- Maintain a two second gap to the vehicle in front (four in bad weather)
- Plan your journey so you have ample time
- Drive defensively – expect other vehicles to do something unsafe!
7 – Don’t just rely on a DVLA licence as ‘proof of competency’. Develop an additional training plan for your Company drivers. Include subjects such as defensive driving and skid control. Provide more intensive training for high mileage drivers and consider additional advanced driver qualifications.
8 – Make vehicle safety a critical part of your selection criteria when you buy your vehicles (NCAP ratings etc.)
9 – Drip feed your drivers with relevant seasonal information throughout the year – winter driving tips, driving at night or wet weather. Don’t just issue the Policy and forget about it going forwards
10 – Include grey fleet in your plan. These are ‘employee owned’ vehicles that are driven for work. They will almost certainly be looked after less well than fleet vehicles. Make sure grey fleet drivers have business insurance cover too.
Do you have any other tips for safer occupational driving? Why not share them in the comments below.
Director, Haysman Consulting Limited
Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner