Duty of care
At The Very Least
Duty Of Care For The Small Business
If you are a business with a small fleet of vehicles, take the time to read this.
If you have 5 or more vehicles you have a legal obligation to ensure you assess the road risk of your drivers and that your company cars comply with safety and documentation requirements. Even if you fleet size is less than 5 vehicles, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Many small business owners understand these responsibilities and ensure that their company cars and drivers meet any health and safety requirements.
It is imperative you can demonstrate that the vehicle is safe and the driver is trained. Ignorance of the law and you duty of care is no defence. After all, the regulations are reasonably straightforward for you to implement and stay legally compliant.
- Keep full records and vehicle documentation where they are both safe and accessible. Make someone responsible for company vehicles. For each vehicle you should have the V5 (log book), insurance documentation, MOT (if applicable), service records and maintenance reports. If you contract hire your vehicles, the operator will have the log book. If the agreement includes full maintenance it will keep the service and maintenance records.
- Keep a dedicated log for each vehicle, where regular checks can be recorded. These must show that every vehicle is safe, and roadworthy. This becomes the vehicle’s ‘audit trail’. They can be daily, weekly or monthly. It depends upon your resources and the amount of mileage the vehicles are doing.
Checks can be done by the vehicle’s driver and/or manager, but whoever does it, keep contemporaneous notes on what was found and what action was taken to correct any faults or damage.
- Remember those company cars that are used only sparingly, and do not ignore employees’ own cars that are used on company business, the ‘grey fleet’. If the vehicle is being used on company business, you are responsible for ensuring that it is legal and roadworthy. It even applies to contractors’ vehicles.
- Resolve any issues or problems straight away if you find something dangerous or even just potentially so. If the worst happens and one or your drivers is involved in an accident, you need to be able to demonstrate that you have done everything possible to ensure that both the vehicle and the driver were as safe and as prepared as possible
- Your responsibilities as an employer cover any driver working on your company business. So whether the driver is a full time employee, part-time, an agency driver or someone working for a sub-contractor, it is up to you to assess any risks and ensure that they are fit to drive.
- Prepare a ‘Driving at Work’ policy for your business drivers and keep it up to date as legal obligations and requirements change. Give a copy to every driver which they should sign to confirm they’ve received and understood it. Also to confirm they will comply with its requirements.
- This Driving at Work policy should cover such issues as mobile phone use, smoking, eating, driving, drug use, speeding and other driving offences. It should also describe what the driver should do in the event of an accident. Consider the risks your drivers may encounter if, for example, you expect them to make long journeys or deliveries, and cover these points too.
- Without fail, always do a full driver’s license check, not just a simple visual check. The information needs to come from the DVLA to ensure that you achieve compliance and are 100% sure the driver is legal to drive. License checking is a vital part of the risk management process and the one where you are the most vulnerable. It should be repeated at least annually, and more frequently for drivers with points on their licenses. It is paramount you check drivers’ licenses before they are employed, and that includes agency and part-time workers.
- You have a legal responsibility to assess each and every driver for road risk. This can be done online but it’s imperative to remember that if any driver shows up as high risk, you must follow up the assessment with training. Again, much of this can be done online unless the driver’s risk assessment demands in car training. Online training is cost effective, particularly if large groups of drivers are involved, it ensures that you can demonstrate that you have met your Duty of Care, and it creates an audit trail for your records.
- If your risk assessment finds a driver who is at high risk, failure to act can mean that you may be held culpable if the driver is subsequently found to be at fault in an accident. Since you knew there was a risk, it was your responsibility to act and failure to do so puts you in a worse position than if you’d been ignorant of the risk. So make sure that you satisfy yourself that you have access to remedial training before you begin your risk assessments.
- It is recommended you ask that your drivers take annual health and eyesight checks and help to ensure drivers are physically fit to drive and comply with the minimum eyesight requirement.
This looks a lot of work but nowadays it is easier with the internet to construct a ‘driving at work’ policy. It really is not worth the risk of non compliance to leave you exposed to prosecution through criminal or civil proceedings if a driver has a serious or fatal accident.