Many employers have been rather slow to recognise work related driving as a major risk factor to employees. The HSE has now made it clear that employers have duties to manage the risks faced by their workers on the road. This includes not just professional drivers, but any employee who is required to travel as part of their normal job duties.

Peter Stanway, our BackupHR™ legal expert comments:

Managing this risk requires more than just compliance with road traffic legislation. Bad weather which may involve snow, winds, floods or fog, highlights the need to ensure drivers are given guidance to make employee drivers reasonably safe. While health & safety law does not apply to commuting, it is wise to make sure you have a ‘Disrupted Travel’ Weather Policy’ in place. This ensures that all employees know exactly what is expected of them.

If this seems daunting consider:

  • Are you prepared to wait for an employee to be seriously injured or even killed before you take any action?
  • The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act can be used to prosecute organisations for work related driving deaths.
  • If you think safety is expensive consider the financial consequences arising from fatalities and serious work-related injuries leading to legal claims.

There is much information available on the web for drivers but very little for employers. Employers should ensure their drivers understand the risks, and, are trained and equipped to help them cope with adverse conditions.

You need to be aware that dismissing employees for refusing to drive in extreme weather conditions will be automatically unfair in circumstances where he/she reasonably believes that there is a serious and imminent danger to themselves or others, hence the need for good training, policies and risk assessment.

The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it. Some businesses do not have this luxury or will have drivers caught out unexpectedly by bad weather.

In addition to education, we would recommend:

  • ensuring vehicles have regular safety checks
  • joining a roadside assistance service
  • equipping vehicles with emergency supplies such as a snow scraper, flares, first aid kit, flash light, bag of sand, small shovel, blanket and booster cables
  • posting the number the employee should call in case of emergency in clear view inside the vehicle
  • providing guidance in a useful booklet in the vehicle
    >li>providing advanced driver training to employees that drive regularly, for example, more than 10,000 miles each year. This significantly reduces any employer vicarious liability should they be involved in a serious accident of their making, whilst at work.

If a Disrupted Travel Policy is not in place, you can contact BackupHR™ for help in outlining both you and your staff’s responsibility when bad weather comes.

The guidance provided in this article is just that – guidance. Before taking any action make sure that you know what you are doing, or call us for a free initial chat on 01480 677980.