Driving is the most dangerous thing we ever do
In recent decades health and safety (H&S) legislation and practice has come on apace. However, there is still a startling disconnect between the very careful H&S best practice most companies enforce on their premises and the lack of risk awareness or fleet risk management on the roads.
This disconnect is reinforced in the UK by the fact that the Health and Safety Executive tends not to involve itself in on-road collisions, leaving them to the police. For anyone who uses vehicles in their business, however, driving skills and compliance must be the number one priority in terms of keeping staff and the public safe.
Regardless of whether they are commuting, selling, delivering locally, fixing utilities or trunking up and down motorways, your drivers face more profound risk on the road than in any other aspect of their working or personal life.
Think of it in these terms. There are 32 million people working in Great Britain (we’ve deducted Northern Ireland’s 817,000 from the ONS figures here). Last year we suffered 147 workplace deaths. There are 39 million vehicles – yet last year we suffered almost 1,800 road deaths, with nearly 25,000 people severely injured.
The top three causes of workplace deaths are falling from height; being struck by a moving vehicle; and being struck by a moving object.
Although many jobs are perceived as having more immediate and potent hazards than driving, they also tend to be associated with extremely high levels of training and safety protocols, often laid down by regulation. So statistically, even the most dangerous occupations – whether deep-sea diving, working on off-shore oil platforms, or performing dentistry on a crocodile – often find their workers much more vulnerable in practice when driving home than they were on the job.
One of the reasons for this, of course, is that however skilled the driver, they are surrounded by members of the public performing the same driving task and many other vulnerable road users. This is a complication very few other professions have to face. Most professions can control their environment to ensure that only those who are trained and follow the same safety protocols will be working alongside them. Not so for the professional driver.
The safety of all work-related driving is, therefore, one of the first conversations that must take place in any organisation which prizes safety and runs vehicles. Our health and safety culture must extend to our fleets, their roadworthiness and the way they are driven.
This is somewhat outside the remit of the health and safety, or occupational safety officers who work so hard in most non-transport organisations. This tends to be left to fleet managers or transport managers. Yet, consider all the councils and utility companies, those in construction, retail and agriculture, the land management companies, and, yes, the butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, all of whom who run fleets. None of whom consider transport at the heart of what they do but simply a means to an end.
The first step on every organisational safety journey, whether you run a hire and reward fleet or a ‘get the job done’ fleet is to realise the very great risk that driving poses. Look again at that proud board on the wall that says ‘No workplace accidents in X days’… Really?
Action points to take away:
- Ensure that everyone involved in running vehicles, or operational safety, understands that road safety is an intrinsic and vital part of what they do
- When you risk assess your road-going fleet, ask yourself what risks you might not see? Do you know whether there is hand–held mobile phone use? Do you know whether drivers wear seat belts away from the depot? Do you know whether they drive tired?
- Make sure that everyone in the organisation is educated about company driving policies, not just the ‘professional’ drivers. Mobile phone bans, roadworthiness checks, seatbelt use – these things must be applied across the entire company to embed safety in your culture.
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In the meantime…
Drive Smart. Drive safe.
- Posted by Nicola Burgess
- On September 9, 2019