Duty of Care – Fleet Management

Regardless of how many vehicles you operate, there is legislation that governs road safety, including the various Road Traffic Acts and Regulations supported by the Highway Code.
In addition, there are a number of related Statutes that are intended to safeguard road-users. These include Regulations covering the construction and use of vehicles, special health and safety legislation and Regulations covering the carriage of dangerous goods by road.

The main responsibilities imposed by this legal framework fall on the shoulders of road users and vehicle owners.

When vehicles are being used or driven on the highway by persons working for an employer under a Contract of Employment, the employer has duties of care which are responsibilities under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and also they have a Common Law duty of care. This means that under this ‘duty of care’ an employer must take reasonable care to protect employees from the risk of foreseeable injury, disease or death whilst they are at work.

It is important to note that the vehicle is considered to be a place of work.

The main responsibilities under the Road Traffic Acts are towards the driver of the vehicle. He/she is responsible for driving a safe vehicle, adequately maintained and insured, in a safe manner having due regard to other road users and pedestrians. The employer has a duty towards providing a safe vehicle and insurance if the vehicle is owned by the employer.
There are three key areas for risk management that you need to give attention to:

Driver

• Driver vetting and selection
• Induction procedures
• Licence checks
• Accident reporting procedures

Vehicle

• Vehicle suitability
• Vehicle maintenance and inspection
• Vehicle security

Journey

• Journey planning
• Managing driver fatigue
• Speed management
• Journey type

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has an occupational road risk publication.

A copy of the ‘Driving at Work’ leaflet can be downloaded at:

http://www.hse.gov.uk.pubns/indg382.pdf Persons found guilty of breaching Road Traffic Law can be subject to a wide range of penalties including prison for serious offences. Breaches of Health & Safety Law may result in a fine or imprisonment. Directors may be liable if it can be shown that their negligence contributed directly to an injury.

Corporate killing

A criminal offence of corporate manslaughter has been drafted, making it easier to prosecute companies responsible for fatal accidents.

The offence will apply when someone has been killed because senior management “grossly fails to take responsible care for the safety of employees or others.”

The maximum penalty will be an unlimited fine.

The employer’s responsibility also extends to ensuring that private vehicles used by employees on “company business” are also operated in a lawful manner.

Checks by the employer should include a vehicle’s mechanical fitness i.e. MOT test (if over 3 years old for cars), service and maintenance records and regular vehicle condition reports.

They must ensure that the driver has “business use” insurance cover and that the driver is suitably licensed to drive that vehicle.

Key action points

• Carry out a risk assessment
• Produce a Health & Safety Policy, which includes your procedures to manage driver safety
• Ensure all licences are checked at least annually
• Regularly record maintenance and service details
• Record all training that has been completed

Author: Tony Gibbs | August 14th, 2009

Contact the author

Tony Gibbs
Get in touch:   Reading: 0118 916 5480   London: 020 7036 8767   info@macbeths.co.uk