What Are Your Duty Of Care Obligations To Company Car Drivers?
Each and every company has a legal obligation and duty of care to their company car drivers, as defined by regulations covering the type and use of vehicles, special health and safety legislation and regulations covering the carriage of dangerous goods by road – to name but a few.
These regulations include the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, which places a legal duty of care on all employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees, and the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 Act. Under this act, companies and organisations can, for the first time, be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of a gross breach of a duty of care regulations.
The main responsibilities imposed by this legal framework fall on the shoulders of the vehicle owners, in this case the company, and on its obligations towards its drivers.
Duty of care regulations dictate vehicle is place of work
It is important to note that, from a legal viewpoint, a vehicle is considered to be a place of work. And companies have a duty of care responsibility to their drivers to make sure that vehicles are fit for purpose and that they are as safe as possible while out on the road, with adequate and appropriate insurance.
Under employment law, an employer also has a duty of care towards the employee and members of the public who may be affected by his or her work activities.
The employer is also “vicariously liable” for the acts of his employees, including injuries or death negligently caused by one employee to another, or to a member of the public injured by his employees.
Who can be found liable?
Liability often has to be shown or proved in the case of an offence. For example, where the employee drives recklessly or breaks speed limits it is the driver’s responsibility alone.
However, where the speeding was due to inappropriate scheduling of appointments by the employer, liability could be shown to be joint and both company and driver could be prosecuted.
Where an employee has been provided with an asset, such as a car, that is not fit for purpose and there is some kind of failure or offence as a result, then it is the company that is likely to be liable.
Managing duty of care
Employers have a responsibility, under various National Health and Safety Executive guidelines, to actively manage health and safety in the workplace, including vehicles.
There need to be work vehicle policies, procedures and safe systems of work in place that reduce work related risks, including the on-the-road activities of employees, so it is vital that risks arising from company vehicles are properly managed.
The company’s written car policy should explain driving at work, the driver’s responsibilities and those of the company. It should be made available to all drivers who should sign to say that they have seen it.
Risk identification and management should be all about common sense. Companies need to look at what might happen, assess the impact of potentially damaging events and take steps to prevent the worst from arising.
This means that under duty of care obligations, an employer must take reasonable care to protect employees from the risk of foreseeable injury, disease or death whilst they are at work.
There are three key areas of risk that companies need to give attention to: