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Employers on the hook for driver distraction

Research indicates that over 100 people are killed, or seriously injured, every week in crashes involving someone who was on the road for work purposes. Driving a vehicle is a hazardous task exposing the driver, any passengers, pedestrians and others in the vicinity to a number of risks and it is important that drivers are able to concentrate on the task in hand.

Written by Paul Brown on 18th December 2019

Employers on the hook for driver distraction

Research indicates that over 100 people are killed, or seriously injured, every week in crashes involving someone who was on the road for work purposes. Driving a vehicle is a hazardous task exposing the driver, any passengers, pedestrians and others in the vicinity to a number of risks and it is important that drivers are able to concentrate on the task in hand.

The Risk for Employers

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) makes it clear that employers have the same duty of care to their employees whether working at, or away from their premises and that health and safety law applies equally to on-the-road work activities and work related road risks should be effectively managed. This duty of care extends not only to the drivers of company vehicles, but also to employees driving their own vehicles on company business.

Modern vehicles often have a number of devices that could cause a distraction if not used sensibly. Whilst the use of mobile phones is considered the major source of distraction, it should be noted that a driver can be also distracted by other devices such as sat-navs and audio equipment.

Mobile Phones

It is illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving and it is also an offence to "cause or permit” a driver to use a hand-held mobile phone. It follows therefore, that employers can be held liable if they require, or allow, employees to use hand-held phones while driving.

 

Regarding hands-free devices prosecutions can be brought for not being in proper control of a vehicle and in the event of an accident, the police may check phone records to establish if phone use was a contributory factor.

There are good business reasons for providing employees with mobile phones, or reimbursing the cost of work calls made on private phones. There are also strong health and safety considerations for lone workers and staff who travel in areas where summoning help may be difficult.

However, staff should be clear that:

  • They should not use a phone whilst driving
  • Their employer’s expectation is that they should let calls go to voicemail, or switch the phone off completely, when driving
  • If they do need to check messages they should do so when safely parked
  • There is no management expectation to take calls while driving
  • There are potentially severe consequences to even momentary lapses
  • Any lack of concentration is dangerous not only to themselves, but also to other road users and pedestrians

Risk Management

RoSPA’s (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) leaflet "Driving for work: Mobile Phones” offers suggestions about how employers can educate their employees, underline their commitment to safe driving and clarify their expectation that drivers will drive safely. These include:

  1. Consulting with staff and safety representatives about the organisation’s relevant Health and Safety and driver’s guidance documentation.
  2. Setting a clear expectation that people will drive safely when driving for work-related reasons.
  3. Reviewing policies regularly to make sure they remain relevant.
  4. Emphasising the company position that employees should not make or receive calls, send or read texts (or e-mails) or use the internet on a phone, or other device, while driving.
  5. Explaining your company policy to drivers at recruitment and at appropriate intervals thereafter.
  6. Leading by example through the actions of senior management
  7. Ensuring that, when travel is required, there is built-in planning for safer journeys incorporating rest and refreshment stops
  8. Recording and investigating any incidents that do occur. This will help to identify if there are any areas of concern which need to be managed.
  9. Emphasising that staff and managers should understand that using a mobile phone while driving will result in disciplinary proceedings and persistent failure to follow this policy will be regarded as a serious matter.
  10. Explaining that the company will work with the police regarding any enquiries received involving company vehicles.
  11. Encouraging drivers to raise any concerns and with their line manager and to whistle blow any inappropriate actions.

Finally, it is good practice to request that employees read the relevant policy and to raise any questions they may have before asking them to sign the policy to indicate that they have read, understood have agreed to abide by it.

If you are interested in the points raised by this article, please speak to your usual Franklands contact on 01332 545720.

Source:

The Transport Committee’s report and the Government’s response can be found on the UK Parliament website at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201920/cmselect/cmtrans/237/23702.htm

https://www.rospa.com/media/documents/road-safety/driver-distraction-factsheet.pdf

https://www.rospa.com/rospaweb/docs/advice-services/road-safety/employers/work-mobile-phones.pdf

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