www.uktraining.info
February 2006

What effects will the new offence of Corporate Manslaughter have on work-related driving?

In the time we await for the new legislation to toughen up corporate manslaughter laws it would be wise to look at our systems to see as to whether they are both adequate and manageable. At present to find an organisation guilty of corporate manslaughter is very difficult because the prosecutors have to identify the "controlling mind" before a case can be made. When the new law is introduced it is the companies systems and those that control them that will be examined.

A specific area that organisations will need to address is the fitness and suitability of their company vehicles and that of the men and women who drive them. If you drive a company vehicle or are responsible for others who drive in the course of their work you need to be aware of your responsibilities. Some employers believe incorrectly that provided they comply with traffic law regulations like ensuring that their company vehicles have a valid MOT and they are adequately insured then that is enough to satisfy Health and Safety regulations. Please think again, laws such as The Health and Safety at Work Act apply to on-the-road work activities, including people using their own cars for business purposes, just as much as they do in other workplaces. The risks involved for your staff and the general public need to be assessed.

An organisation would be guilty of the new offence of Corporate Manslaughter if the way in which its senior managers managed or organised its activities caused a person's death as a result of a gross breach of a duty of care. Clearly we all need to be prepared for when these latest proposals become law. Any company who has drivers on the road should have in place a coherent and manageable vehicle and driver risk programme. This affects companies and organisations of all sizes from the large corporate fleets to smaller enterprises with just a few employees. Any driving done for work purposes, no matter how small, could put your organisation at risk.

A sobering thought is that it is estimated that one in three road accidents involves a vehicle being driven for work and typically each year there are over 3,000 fatalities on our roads. When the new law comes into force your organisation could be prosecuted for Corporate Manslaughter if one of these fatalities is caused by one of your employees whilst driving any vehicle for business purposes. I urge you to also reflect on the fact that typically each year over 200,000 drivers lose their licence; do any of them work for you?

Very often the solutions are not readily available within organisations. To have a full time fleet manager might be easy to justify within a large organisation but more difficult within smaller ones. However, the benefits of a good vehicle and driver risk strategy are generally significant. It will not only save you money but also improve the safety of your workforce and the public at large. It will help in areas such as improved insurance arrangements and could also help protect you against personal injury claims. It could also help your image in the business sector and help your company improve its all round health and safety by creating a new culture within itself. All drivers and driving activities done for work purposes should be risk assessed. This should not be looked at as a short-term fix. Only continued and updated policies will ensure your organisation achieves the health and safety improvements that will minimise the risk of your organisation being prosecuted for the new offence of Corporate Manslaughter when it becomes law.




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