Manage occupational road risk and keep your drivers safe

Driver training15 years ago, at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) embarked on a pioneering campaign that was the first to reveal occupational road risk as a hidden killer on Britain’s roads.

Through our Managing Occupational Road Risk (MORR) campaign, we became the first organisation to try to quantify the devastating impact of at-work road accidents – considering not only professional drivers like lorry and bus drivers, but also people who drive company cars, vans or their own vehicles on work-related journeys. Subsequent research has since confirmed, and even increased, our early casualty estimates.

The campaign

The MORR campaign was launched when our occupational safety adviser published a groundbreaking discussion paper in 1996. In the absence of official statistics, he estimated that up to 25 per cent of road deaths each year involved vehicles being driven in the course of work activities. This amounted to more than 875 deaths, of which more than 300 were associated with accidents involving company cars and more than 300 with accidents involving vans. The paper said that “those who cover significant mileages as part of their job in company cars and vans may be at higher risk of occupational fatality than workers in acknowledged high risk sectors such as construction or underground mining”.

In the years since, we have campaigned for MORR to be taken seriously by employers and regulators, and have developed and provided practical help for employers to enable them to address the issue. We have also sought to gain the support of other key players in encouraging employers to adopt a proactive approach, promoting not only the clear moral, legal and business imperatives, but also the contribution that MORR would make to meeting national road casualty reduction targets.

Since the 1996 discussion paper, subsequent research has estimated that up to a third of road accidents involve someone who is at work. Applying this to the most recent casualty figures means that in 2009, an estimated 740 people lost their lives – more than two people a day – and a further 8,230 were seriously injured in work-related road accidents in Britain.

This continuing level of suffering, and the fact we have an increasingly road-mobile workforce, means that – 15 years on – we cannot put a tick in the work-related road safety box and declare that it has been ‘achieved’. While there have been tremendous steps forward and some really positive examples of employers acknowledging the importance of this issue, driving still remains the most dangerous thing that most of us do for work and too many organisations are still failing to act on MORR.

Therefore, to mark the 15th anniversary of our campaign, we are urging employers – including those in the health sector – to make 2011 the year in which they commit to regularly reviewing and improving their road safety arrangements.

Why act on MORR?
As we have written in the pages of Health Business previously, there are significant prompts for managing occupational road risk.

From an ethical perspective, employers can reduce the pain and suffering caused by at-work road accidents, which can have effects for the employee as well as his or her family and friends. Helping drivers to be safer on work-related journeys – for example, by arranging driver training – can also help them to be safer when they’re driving on other journeys, meaning employers can play an important part in reducing the overall accident toll on Britain’s roads.

Turning to the environmental perspective, the good news is that there are clear overlaps between safer and fuel-efficient driving, both of which focus on smooth vehicle control and planning ahead. Indeed, many training providers now offer eco driving courses, which explicitly highlight these overlaps.

The business case

From a business perspective, it’s not just about saving money on fuel bills.

Research by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into workplace accidents suggests that for every £1 recovered through insurance, between £8 and £36 may be lost through uninsured costs. Occupational road accidents are likely to cost organisations in terms of lost business, administrative and legal fees and rising insurance premiums. Particularly when they involve liveried vehicles, they can also adversely affect organisational reputation, bringing further financial implications.

It is understandable that when budgets are tight and organisations are looking for cost-savings, safety may not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. But, it is in these times that cutting the avoidable losses associated with accidents becomes all the more important. It is crucial that employers understand this business case for action on road safety and know that it is actually stronger when times are tough.

Looking briefly at the legal perspective, we can see that guidance issued by the HSE and Department for Transport (Driving at Work: Managing Occupational Road Safety, INDG382) clearly states that health and safety law applies to on-the-road work activities as to all work activities.

Employers must therefore manage risks on the road within the framework they should already have in place for dealing with other aspects of health and safety. The general duties laid out by the Health and Safety at Work Act mean they must assess the risks involved in the use of the road for work and put in place all ‘reasonably practicable’ measures to ensure that: work-related journeys are safe; staff are fit and competent to drive safely; and vehicles used are fit-for-purpose and in a safe condition.

The police also look at work-related factors when road crashes are investigated and action has been taken against employers.

How to act on MORR
Once the prompts for action on MORR are understood and accepted, it’s time to look at how to act. Throughout our 15-year campaign, one of our key messages has been that managing occupational road risk needs to be addressed using the same policies and procedures that organisations should already have in place for managing other aspects of health and safety.

Like managing any kind of work-related risk, safety on the road while at work cannot be achieved by a variety of disjointed, perhaps one-off, interventions. Instead, you need an overarching system, and there needs to be a commitment to a cycle of continuous improvement.

A good starting place is to establish how well your organisation is doing on work-related road safety at the moment. Questions to ask include: what elements of a management system do you have in place already? What is your current accident rate? What are the main causes of accidents? How much are accidents actually costing your organisation? Your answers to questions like these will give you a sound reason for action on work-related road risk that is unique to your organisation – crucial if you are going to achieve buy-in from senior management, as well as employees – and they will identify any gaps in your MORR system that need filling.

An important part of a robust MORR system is risk assessment, because it helps you focus attention on where problems are or where they are likely to arise. In this way you can ensure your resources are used to their best effect. Doing risk assessment on a driver-by-driver basis, as well as for the organisation as a whole, would be preferable because no two drivers are the same.

Any number of practical and cost-effective control measures could be flagged up by a good and sensible risk assessment, including: exploring safer alternatives to road travel (e.g. taking the train or 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.

When it comes to driver development, the value of treating drivers as individuals comes to the fore. An organisational risk assessment might flag up training needs, but the needs of each driver, and the interventions that might help them, are likely to be different. For example, some drivers might benefit from e-learning (interactive online training), a classroom theory session or perhaps something as simple as receiving a copy of the revised Highway Code and being encouraged to read it. For others, a risk assessment might point to the need for in-car training.

The proper investigation of accidents and learning from them is also an important part of a MORR system.

Seeking help

At RoSPA, we would be more than happy to help organisations looking to improve their MORR arrangements. On our website, we have a wide variety of free resources for employers, including guides about issues you could include in your MORR policies, such as vehicle technology, the use of employees’ own vehicles, drink and drug driving, and the use of mobile phones, plus a free-to-view film. In addition, we have a range of paid-for training and consultancy services.

There are also many organisations that are already well advanced in addressing work-related road risk, so business-to-business learning can also be useful. For more details see the website of the Occupational Road Safety Alliance (www.orsa.org.uk) or, if you are based in Scotland, the Scottish Occupational Road Safety Alliance (www.scorsa.org.uk).

For more information
Tel: 0121 2482233
fleetsolutions@rospa.com
www.rospa.com