More than a quarter of all road traffic incidents may involve somebody who is driving as part of their work at the time according to Department for Transport figures.
Health and safety law applies to work activities on the road in the same way as it does to all work activities and employers need to manage the risks to drivers as part of their health and safety arrangements. Health and safety law does not apply to people commuting (i.e. travelling between their home and their usual place of work), unless they are travelling from their home to somewhere which is not their usual place of work.
Employers have duties under health and safety law for on-the-road work activities. The Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (‘HSWA’) states that employers must ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all employees while at work. Employers must also ensure that others are not put at risk by their work-related driving activities. The self-employed have similar responsibilities.
‘So far as reasonably practicable’ means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble. However, employers do not need to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk.
The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to manage health and safety effectively. They must carry out an assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees, while they are at work, and to other people who may be affected by their organisation’s work activities.
Employers must consult with their employees and, where applicable, their health and safety representatives, on health and safety issues.
In most cases, the police will continue to take the lead on investigating road traffic incidents on public roads. The HSE will usually only take enforcement action where the police identify that serious management failures have been a significant contributory factor to the incident.
If an employee is killed, for example while driving for work, and there is evidence that serious management failures resulted in a ‘gross breach of a relevant duty of care’, the company or organisation could be at risk of being prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter & Corporate Homicide Act 2007.