How can accidents caused by driving be reduced? Jo Stagg of ROSPA explains
Driving is the most dangerous work activity that most people do. Research indicates that about 20 people are killed and 250 seriously injured every week in crashes involving someone who was driving, riding or otherwise using the road for work purposes.
These figures are frightening, but not necessarily surprising. In fact, car and van drivers who cover 25,000 miles a year as part of their job are at virtually the same risk of being killed at work as those employed in “high hazard” sectors such as construction or quarrying. Work-related road safety is therefore an issue of great significance and with an increasingly service-based economy supported by an increasingly itinerant workforce, it is likely to continue to be so.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) began working in 1996 to ensure that Managing Occupational Road Risk (MORR) was addressed by employers, and regulators, as a mainstream health and safety issue. Now, linked with more than 100 other organisations in the Occupational Road Safety Alliance (ORSA), RoSPA is continuing its campaign.
Roger Bibbings, RoSPA’s Occupational Safety Adviser, explains: “Work-related road accidents are the biggest cause of work-related accidental death, with up to 20 people on average likely to be dying in work-related road crashes every week compared with less than seven fatalities notifiable under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations 1995).
“Levels of occupational risk to workers who drive as part of their job are relatively high. Millions of workers who have to drive as part of their job are required to cover much greater mileage than they would otherwise drive in a purely private capacity and they are thereby exposed to significant additional risk.”
There are many reasons why organisations should address work-related road safety.
In its Driving at Work: Managing Work-Related Road Safety guidance, published in 2003 after a report by the independent Work-Related Road Safety Task Group, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is clear in its message - health and safety law applies to on-the-road work activities as it does to all work activities.
Employers must therefore assess the risks involved in the use of the road for work and put in place all “reasonably practicable” measures to manage those risks. As well as this legal responsibility, improving employee safety on the road has an obvious moral element. MORR can also help reduce the resulting costs of accidents and create efficiency savings, improve an organisation’s safety image and make a significant contribution to meeting UK road safety targets.
To progress in this area, organisations can put in place a range of practical and cost-effective control measures, such as: exploring safer alternatives to road travel, for example, video-conferencing; specifying safest routes; insisting on compliance with speed limits; setting standards for safe schedules, journey times and distance limits; specifying the use of vehicles with additional safety features; ensuring safe maintenance; and, ensuring drivers are fit to do the task, which includes driver selection procedures, assessment, training and continual development. By reducing unnecessary road travel and encouraging smoother, safer driving, employers can also help to reduce environmental impact.
But RoSPA is keen that organisations do not see MORR purely as a tick-box exercise.
Mr Bibbings continues: “In short, managing risk on the road, like managing any kind of work-related risk, cannot be achieved by one-off interventions. Organisations need to focus, in the first instance, on the policies, people and procedures - the ‘system’ - which they need to have in place and establish the ‘process’ for working the problem before trying to find ‘solutions’.
“Two key ingredients for success are clear: visible and committed leadership by senior managers, exemplified in their decision-making and in their personal behaviour; and, full and effective workforce involvement, including full partnership and consultation with safety representatives. They also need good sources of data, for example on vehicles, journeys, drivers, crashes and incidents, to help them assess risks and monitor the effectiveness of interventions.”
A range of resources are available for organisations wishing to further explore work-related road risk. Managing Occupational Road Risk – The RoSPA Guide includes details of the benefits to be gained from introducing a MORR policy, the law, developing a risk management approach, risk assessment and control measures. Free publications are also available to be downloaded from RoSPA’s website, including guidelines on introducing policies for Safer Journey Planning, Safer Speeds and Mobile Phones. The HSE has a range of publications, including the Work-Related Road Safety Task Group Report.
Practical solutions are also available, including ROADTest, the first advanced driving test designed purely for business drivers, which is delivered through a partnership between RoSPA and DriveTech (UK) Ltd. RoSPA’s award-winning Driver Profiler software is also available to give organisations a better idea of their employees’ strengths and weaknesses when driving. It is not a test, but the results of the assessment allow employers to deliver an appropriate level of training to each individual if required.
Many organisations, particularly those that have become health and safety “higher performers”, are beginning to explore a holistic approach to accident prevention, looking for ways to enhance the safety of their employees outside the workplace. MORR plays a key role in this respect because the training a company driver has at work is likely to be put into practice on the road after hours. Some organisations, such as BMW (UK) Ltd Vehicle Distribution Centre, the winner of RoSPA’s 2006 MORR Trophy, have also started to offer driver training to the spouses of their employees.
Through the activities of ORSA, which include networking opportunities, promoting the exchange of information and events, it is likely that work-related road safety will continue to grow in prominence. Potential changes at the regulator level could also come about. The HSE has agreed new liaison arrangements with the police to tackle the aftermath of serious “at-work” road accidents, and the new offence of corporate manslaughter, when it becomes law, could also have an interesting role to play, for example if it is found that an organisation’s scant regard to the issue of driver fatigue played a part in a fatal accident.
For more information on occupational road safety, see www.rospa.com/drivertraining/morr or www.orsa.org.uk. Call RoSPA on 0870 777 2105 (Birmingham) or 0870 777 2228 (Edinburgh) or email email@example.com