A legal perspective: What to do if your employee has a road accident during work hours
Employers are responsible for ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their employees. Some work activities or jobs involve driving (such as a bus or taxi driver, delivery driver via motorbike or lorry driver) or require people to work on foot on the road (such as postal workers, the police, maintenance workers). As a result, employers must ensure that adequate training is provided, refresher sessions are offered, and policies and guidance are readily available to avoid or reduce risks of road accidents during working hours.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 governs the laws on health and safety management in the workplace. Responsibility lays on both the employer and employee; employers have a duty to ensure the safety of their employees, and employees have a duty towards themselves and each other to take reasonable care of their own safety and the safety of others. Further guidance can also be sought via the Health and Safety Executive website; HSE are responsible for promoting health and safety at work and have therefore published a number of enforcement policies and guidance.
In order to reduce the risk of accidents in the workplace, employers must carry out extensive risk assessments to manage the health and safety of their employees and to ensure that their employees are working, so far as reasonably practicable, in a safe working environment. For businesses which involve travelling on foot or jobs which require extensive driving, the same principles inevitably apply.
Employers have a duty to ensure that they are fully assessing the risks involved with their employees who carry out driving-related jobs and taking reasonable measures to reduce such risks. The HSE recommends the following safety checklist which employers should consider in order to manage work-related road safety effectively:
Employers should ensure that the necessary checks are carried out on their drivers; having a record of necessary documents, checking the validity of driving licences and ensure they satisfy eyesight and other health requirements of the Highway Code. Adequate instructions and training should also be provided, and employees should have clear instructions on how to keep themselves safe on the road, how to maintain their vehicle and what to do if their vehicle breaks down. It would also be a good idea to hold refresher sessions on the Highway Code, to ensure that drivers stay abreast of road safety and rules. For employees who ride bicycles or motorbikes, ensure they are wearing and have access to crash helmets and protective clothing, and that the same are of the appropriate standard. It might be a given but employers should stress to their employees the importance of not driving whilst intoxicated and not using mobile phones while driving.
Employers should seek to investigate which vehicles are most suitable for their employees to use and ensure that they are fit for purpose, as well as considering if they have the necessary safety devices i.e. camera systems and proximity sensors. If the employee is driving a lorry or HGV, does the vehicle have side protection bars to protect cyclists? Daily checks on the vehicle should also be carried out, for example on windscreen wipers and tyres. Ensure the vehicle is insured for business use, is taxed and serviced and also has a valid MOT certificate.
Employers should go beyond checking the safety of their driver and vehicle, and should also take into account external factors such as the weather and the allocated driving times (sleep-related incidents are most likely between 2am – 6am and 2pm – 4pm). The route in which their employees will take should be considered, for example where HGVs or lorries are used, employers should investigate whether the route will involve any tunnels or bridges and if so, whether or not the vehicle meets any height or width restrictions.
Where businesses may require their employees to carry out work on foot, or even if it is as part of an employee’s job role to travel between offices for example, employers will still need to evaluate the potential risks to their employees. This can be done by preparing health and safety policies to cover this, and to ensure that copies are readily available and accessible to their employees. Training should be provided where needed and employers should consider the environment or route in which their employees will take; will there be any roadworks or obstacles? Is there a safer route? Would it be easier to travel on foot, public transport or taxi? These are the things employers should always bear in mind.
Whilst employers can do as much as they can in respect of ensuring the safety of their employees, some road accidents are unavoidable. The same regulations and principles apply to road-related accidents as they would to ordinary work-related accidents. Therefore, where an employee has had a road accident, the employer should ensure that they:
· Report all accidents; all accidents should be reported, and more serious road accidents should be reported in a RIDDOR report under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013. This should be done immediately and in any event within 15 days of the accident;
· Notify their insurance company; a claims investigator can be appointed to investigate the accident in case it is much more serious than anticipated and a claim is made against the business;
· Give employees ample time off; make sure that employees are given enough time to fully recover before going back to work. This would also be a good time for employers to further assess their risks and consider how safety could be improved, if at all.
In conclusion, employers will need to make sure that stringent policies and procedures are implemented to ensure that employees understand, and are very clear on, how to safely use the road, how to protect other road users and how to avoid the risk of road accidents. Employers should continually assess their employees and make sure their employees regularly take breaks so that they are fit, competent and alert to drive as part of their role and to reduce, insofar as possible, their risk of a road accident. In turn, employees must also co-operate with the health and safety procedures and policies, and be pro-active in seeking training or refresher sessions if necessary.
By Karen Holden, founder of A City Law Firm