The law

The law

When you have a company car fleet, the law affects you in many ways. There are the laws which affect all drivers not just company drivers, such as those concerning speeding limits or the provision of driving licences. Then there are more specific laws such as those in the UK Health Act 2006 which deals with smoking in a company vehicle. There are a myriad of parking laws both national and local.Health and Safety legislation affecting company cars is set out in three sets of comprehensive legislation as follows:

  1. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
  2. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the Management Regulations)
  3. The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

The first Act sets out the general duties which employers have towards employees and members of the public, and employees have to themselves and to each other. They include all vehicles and their drivers operating on company business wherever they may be.

These duties are qualified in the Act by the principle of so far as is reasonably practicable. In other words, an employer does not have to take measures to avoid or reduce the risk if they are technically impossible or if the time, trouble or cost of the measures would be grossly disproportionate to the risk.

What the law requires here is what good management and common sense would lead employers to do anyway, that is, to look at what the risks are and take sensible measures to tackle them.

The second Act, Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the Management Regulations) generally make more explicit what employers are required to do to manage health and safety under the Health and Safety at Work Act. Like the Act, they apply to every work activity.

The main requirement on employers is to carry out a risk assessment. Employers with five or more employees need to record the significant findings of the risk assessment. Risk assessment should be straightforward in a simple workplace such as a typical office.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 is ground breaking, as for the first time, companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.

The Act clarifies the criminal liabilities of companies including large organisations where serious failures in the management of health and safety result in a fatality.

Although the new offence is not actually part of health and safety law, it has introduced an important new element in the corporate management of health and safety.

Prosecutions will be of the corporate body and not individuals, but the liability of directors, board members or other individuals under health and safety law or general criminal law, will be unaffected. And the corporate body itself and individuals can still be prosecuted for separate health and safety offences.