County project targets company drivers
DRIVING is officially the most dangerous activity undertaken in a workplace environment", according to the Government's Transport Research Laboratory. Statistics reveal that every year, there are approximately 1,000 deaths and 35,000 injury accidents on
DRIVING is "officially the most dangerous activity undertaken in a workplace environment", according to the Government's Transport Research Laboratory.Statistics reveal that every year, there are approximately 1,000 deaths and 35,000 injury accidents on British roads involving people who are "at work" at the time - that's 200 working drivers every week. Those figures have prompted Devon's Countrymile to focus on raising awareness of new corporate responsibilities among local businesses that manage or drive company vehicles. Devon County Council, Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, the Devon and Cornwall Safety Camera Partnership, Devon Primary Care Trust and South Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust, are working in partnership on the Devon Countrymile to improve rural road safety, specifically in the area between Exeter and Barnstaple, bordered by the A361, the A377 and the A396. The Devon Countrymile project is supported by the Department for Transport.The project is currently offering qualifying companies within the project boundaries free training in relevant areas, ranging from best practice vehicle management to assessment and advice on staff driving skills.Provisions in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 still oblige a duty of care for employees generally, but understanding detail contained in the Corporate manslaughter and homicide act 2008 has now become vital for companies' most senior staff. Proper management of "at work" drivers is now a legal requirement, with severe penalties for non-compliance. The Countrymile project research has so far revealed limited appreciation of new corporate responsibilities among directors and managers of smaller local enterprises. Community Driving Instructor Mike Hull, who is masterminding the free training currently being conducted for smaller companies across the Devon Countrymile project area, reckons the reasons are clear. He says: "Many smaller Devon companies are hesitant to introduce occupational road risk management systems, failing to get to grips with their responsibilities - and the need to improve their drivers' attitude to road safety - simply because they lack the expertise needed." He points out there's no longer a 'corporate veil' behind which those responsible for serious vehicle-related accidents might hide. "Liability today," he says, "can go to the top - organisations could be guilty of corporate manslaughter if their activities are organised in a way which causes a person's death, and amounts to a gross breach of the duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased." Since 2008 it has become easier to prosecute companies, with offences no longer reliant on individual guilt. Courts can now consider wider corporate responsibility, putting an emphasis on management operating best possible practice - and penalties range from 'remedial' and 'publicity' orders up to unlimited fines. Since 'recommended' fines range from 2.5 to 10% of average annual turnover - they are undeniably big numbers for small companies. Corporate liability brings an inevitable need to re-assess drivers' skills as part of a company's road risk management strategy, bringing improved staff motivation - and a new cost saving opportunity. Councillor Margaret Rogers, Devon County Council Executive Member for Environment, said: "Ultimately, longer term savings result from both employees' improved road safety awareness, and better driving techniques. Savings in fuel and maintenance costs, with fewer tyre, brake and clutch replacements, are all beneficial to the local environment, and lower insurance premiums are all perfectly possible which can help businesses in this difficult economic time.