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As with all areas of the health and safety law the employer has a duty to carry out a risk assessments of employees who drive as part of their company duties. In February 2007 the Road Safety Act 2006 introduced new legislation imposing fixed penalty fines and a three point endorsement for offences of driving whilst using a hand held mobile phone. In order to protect the company and the health and safety of employees it is a legal duty of employers to carry out a thorough risk assessment of the potential dangers faced by employees who drive on behalf of their business.
The Health & Safety At Work Act etc 1974 specifically applies to employees who are undertaking work related journeys. The company has a duty to identify the risks involved in that work and it should be noted that this applies to all work related journeys whether or not the employee is travelling in a company owned vehicle. The Management of Health & Safety At Work Regulations 1994 made risk assessments in relation to work related driving activities mandatory. This area is also covered by the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) which applies to company owned motor vehicles. Under PUWER the employer has a duty to make sure that vehicles are maintained in good working order and to assess the risks associated with using the vehicle including the ergonomics of the car, manual handling and the use of mobile phones. Once risks have been identified the employer then has a duty to reduce those risks as far as reasonably practicable and also to provide the appropriate information, instruction and training to their employees.
The initial risk assessment should first consider whether an employee needs to drive at all. Consideration should be given to the use of public transport or video conferencing facilities for example – this also has an environmental impact and could form part of a company Environmental Policy.
Where driving is unavoidable assessments should take into account the individual driver, the type of journeys made and the specific vehicles used. In assessing an individual the company should look at an employee’s attitude towards driving, speed, their age, sex (97% of specific motor offences were committed by males in 2004), driving experience, previous driving history including any accidents and penalty points. A full assessment of an individual’s fitness to drive should also be taken into account, including matters such as eyesight, health, addiction and any other issues which are likely to affect an individual’s capability to drive – you should also check the employees original driving licence to check that it is genuine and current .
Other issues which should be taken into account during a risk assessment include the follows:
Health issues such as the risk of musculoskeletal injury which can occur due to the repetitive nature of driving and also poor posture in the driving seat.
Vulnerable workers or lone workers must also be considered and systems should be in place to keep in contact with employees who are working alone and provisions must be made for their welfare in the event of an unforeseen incident. For example you should consider matters such as provision of a mobile phone, a comprehensive breakdown service, provision of a first aid kit and things such as blankets, hot drinks etc if the journey is taking place during the colder months of the year.
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Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.