Employers who forget that their health and safety responsibilities extend to employees driving on company business should take note of a shift in the way police will investigate road accidents in future.
Research by the Health and Safety Executive shows that 20 people are killed and 250 are seriously injured each week in traffic accidents involving someone driving for business reasons. This has prompted the Metropolitan Police and several other forces to adopt a policy of investigating company road-safety procedures when an accident involving a work vehicle occurs.
Police will investigate whether the company has carried out basic checks, such as making sure employees using their own cars for business purposes have a valid driving licence, are insured to drive on business and have an MOT certificate for their vehicle. In addition, they intend to investigate the reasons for a vehicle involved in an accident being on the road.
Research by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety has found that employers often fail to consider the dangers posed by employees driving whilst tired. Practices such as expecting employees who drive on company business to work long hours or putting pressure on them to fulfil as many appointments as possible in a given period could be regarded as contributory factors by police investigating the reasons for an accident.
The Corporate Manslaughter Act, due to come into force in April 2008, will make it easier to bring cases against organisations that are negligent in carrying out their health and safety obligations and this causes someone’s death.
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