What is a duty of care?
All UK companies have a legal obligation to ensure their employees do not suffer any unreasonable or foreseeable harm or loss in the workplace – this is known as duty of care.
In other words, employers can be found liable if an employee or a member of the public incurs harm or loss as a result of negligence. Therefore it’s vital all fleet operators carry out the relevant safety checks on owned vehicles to ensure they’re safe to use.
It’s important to note that if a vehicle is owned by a firm, it’s considered a place of work, so health and safety rules apply. According to the Department of Transport, over a quarter of road traffic accidents may involve someone who’s driving as part of their employment obligations.
When it comes to road safety, much of the legal responsibility falls on the driver. It is, therefore, up to you to ensure your vehicle is safe, well maintained and insured, and is being driven in a safe manner. An employee caught driving recklessly is responsible for any offence that comes as a result of it.
However, employers do shoulder some responsibility for their employees’ actions. For instance, employers are liable for the death or injury of an employee caused by another employee through negligence.
Additionally, both parties may be found liable if a driver is caught speeding as a result of impractical employer scheduling.
What this means for fleets?
For fleet operators, it’s important to acknowledge that company-owned vehicles are considered the workplace, and that you have a duty to ensure those vehicles are properly insured and safe to drive. It’s also vital that you set up ‘safe systems of work’ procedures to assess and minimise the work-related risks and hazards your drivers may face.
As a fleet manager, there are three areas of risk management you should focus on in order to comply with duty of care:
All company-owned vehicles should be suitable for the job at hand and should meet drivers’ needs. Security is also a priority, not just for the driver, but for all road users. Frequent maintenance checks and inspections are essential for maintaining the best standards possible.
Before hiring a new driver, ensure they are properly vetted and that their licence is checked. Make sure they are given a thorough induction to fleet procedures and policies, especially for accident reporting.
Setting realistic journey targets for your drivers is a crucial aspect of safeguarding their welfare. Proper journey planning reduces the likelihood of speeding or driver fatigue, while also improving employee moral and reducing the risk of work-related ill health, according to the Health and Safety Executive.