According to the HSE, driving a vehicle for work related activities is the single most dangerous task that most of us will do on a daily basis. Of course, these are comparative levels of risk. If your job involves deep sea fishing or climbing up trees with chainsaws buzzing away, well that’s obviously pretty risky! For most of us however, jumping in a car, van, bus or truck and making that work related trip is pretty much the most dangerous part of our day. But what can you do to mitigate the risk – both to your employees and your organisation? Read on to find out…
For many of us, when a colleague is involved in a crash we tend to concentrate on the end product: ‘’the crash’’. However, it is important not to forget the many little risk factors that bubble away in the background. By examining a case study of a crash, we can examine these risk factors in order to develop strategies to prevent a crash happening in the first place.
Dave is 23 years old; he is an apprentice telecoms engineer and drives a van for work. Dave has been involved in a serious crash at a traffic light junction where he has struck and killed a cyclist.
The evening before the day of the crash, Dave was out with friends playing five-a- side football. After the game, he went for one pint of normal strength beer in the pub. After the beer Dave was hungry so on the way home he called in at the local chip shop and bought some fish and chips. Dave ate the food at home and was in bed for 11:30pm.The next morning Dave slept through his alarm and woke up one hour late. He rushed out to work without having any breakfast as he was already late. On the way to work Dave started to worry, as this wasn’t the first time he’d been late. The last time he was late he’d got into trouble because he’d missed a driving assessment that was booked for him. Missing the appointment cost the company money – which had made his manager angry.
“Investigations into how and, more importantly, why collisions occur are frequently identifying failures in company policies and practices.
Developments in road policing are increasingly likely to make such failures transparent to the court”
Chief Inspector Ian Brooks, Metropolitan Police Service
When Dave got to work, his manager was waiting for him. No sooner had Dave parked his car his manager told him that he had downloaded Dave’s job sheet for him and he needed to leave straight away. Dave told him that he had not had any breakfast and would like a coffee before he set off for the day, but his manager told him to leave for his first job. Dave then told his manager that he needed to complete his daily vehicle checks but his manager said that as the van had been parked up all night it would be fine and that there was no time for the vehicle check.
When Dave arrived at his first job, he was pleased to find it was really straight forward and didn’t take as long as he’d thought it would.
At lunch time, Dave was driving towards a set of traffic lights at a busy crossroads. The lights were on green. The speed limit for the road was 30MPH and Dave was travelling at 30MPH. As Dave crossed the line of the junction he realised he’d hit something.
All Dave could remember is seeing a flash of yellow coming from his left as he crossed the line of the junction. Dave tried to brake but there was no time. The yellow high vis was the vest of the cyclist Dave had struck. The cyclist had gone through a red light. Unfortunately the cyclist was killed… But what happens next?
Although there is an argument that says Dave had not been in the wrong and the cyclist had been taking a risk, let’s take a look at the risk increasing factors from Dave’s perspective.
- Dave is 23 years old and drives a van for work (this puts Dave in the high risk category by virtue of simply being Dave)
- Dave’s culture and lifestyle could be a risk factor (eating late, sleeping in etc)
- Skipping breakfast can cause people to lose concentration and start to feel fatigued around lunch time as the blood sugar levels drop and vision drops from looking up to looking down
- Dave had a history of being late and on the last occasion, missed his scheduled driving assessment
- Poor relationship with his manager (manager not interested or supportive)
- Vehicle checks had not taken place
The police will arrive at the scene and start their investigations. It is a requirement that police investigate all incidents as unlawful killings until the contrary is proven and therefore the crash will be treated like a murder scene. Dave may be arrested. He will be breathalysed, his mobile phone will be analysed and the van will be impounded. Police officers will complete a STATS 19 accident report form to record circumstances. Information such as day of week, time of day, age of driver(s) weather conditions, will all be logged. The police will also ascertain whether Dave’s journey was a work related trip. Officers speak to witnesses and carry out road measurements to piece together the evidence. The police will then visit Dave’s place of work and may expect to see the following:
- Time keeping records of the driver involved (looking for a history of lateness)
- Driving licence checks
- Insurance documents
- Internal investigation and witness statements
- Vehicle checks
- Telephone call log and telephone will be seized
- Training records
- Risk assessments
- Telemetry data
- Vehicle camera data if appropriate
- Company policy
- Crash history data
- Incident investigation documents
Obviously as an employer, it is vital that you have these documents in place, ready for inspection.
What can I do?
- Get to know your drivers and actively engage them in creating your organisation’s MORR policies, procedures, systems and training initiatives.
- Conduct regular toolbox talks to discuss driving matters, health and wellbeing. Make sure you get things out in the open.
- Ensure your organisation has a clear and defined collision / incident investigation and escalation process.
- Ensure safety checks are performed on all vehicles that are used for work activities. These checks should be recorded and maintained for future reference. Include a robust defect reporting system within your vehicle maintenance and safety check regime.
- Provide driver training and/or risk assessments for those that have been identified as being at risk. Include the person, the vehicle and the journey within procedures. Keep up to date records that demonstrate both compliance with internal policies and a desire to continually improve safety standards
- Plan road safety management reviews at least every 6 months to ensure continuing suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of your procedures. Have your systems audited by a third party to obtain an unbiased view.
- Driver records should be up-to-date and readily available to the enforcement agencies upon request following a road traffic crash involving one of your employees.
- Train all management staff to develop knowledge and skills with respect of managing occupational road risk. Managers should be able to consider the impact of certain events which may increase road traffic crashes. Remember, evaluation is crucial!
This article was written by Colin Knight – MORR™ Consultant/Auditor – RoSPA Fleet Safety
Colin has 13 years experience within the Driver Training industry; he is a grade 6 Fleet Driver Trainer and holds a BA Honours Degree in Driver Education. He is a consultant and auditor for RoSPA Fleet Safety, focussing on developing the (MORR™) Management of Occupational Road Risk side of RoSPA’s operations with cross-functional responsibility for conducting trainer audits. Colin is a BSI certified Lead Auditor for ISO 39001 Road Traffic Safety (RTS) Management Systems and has project managed case studies demonstrating a quantifiable return on investment for clients both financially and culturally within the driver and fleet safety context.
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