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Contractors are covered by tougher corporate manslaughter driving laws

8 August 2016

Organisations have been provided with a stark reminder that they are responsible for not just the health and safety of their own employees whilst driving ‘at work’ but also for any contractors they engage. This comes after Baldwin’s Crane Hire was fined £700,000 under tougher corporate manslaughter laws and ordered to pay £200,000 in legal costs.

The Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 has always clearly classified driving as an ‘at work’ activity, whether a conventional car, a van or even a 130-tonne mobile crane is involved, as was the case in the tragic death of Mr Easton who worked for Baldwins.

Many organisations have long perceived the Act to only apply to their own company car or professional van drivers, but the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007 and the Health & Safety (Offenses) Act 2008 focused the attention of the various people responsible for vehicles throughout the UK business community.

Classified as micro, small, medium or large based on their turnover, organisations for whom anyone drives regularly or occasionally, including contractors, will face fines of up to £20 million under new sentencing guidelines in force from February 2016.

Occasional drivers, employees who regularly or infrequently drive their own ‘grey fleet’ vehicles, the self-employed and contractors should all be shown a duty of care by the organisations they work for when it comes to vehicle safety.

Driving for ‘at work’ purposes includes not just regular journeys but also ad-hoc and one-off trips, from driving to meetings, site visits, business events, awards ceremonies, training sessions, out-of-hours journeys in the evening or at the weekend and even informal calls and deliveries made en route to a temporary or fixed place of work.

Organisations are advised to introduce or improve existing written HR and H&S policies to reflect the more stringent laws governing at-work drivers, whilst realising the importance of conducting driving license checks, ensuring that all vehicles are suitably insured, taxed and serviced, training or advice has been provided for drivers, and limits have been set on how many hours they can drive without endangering themselves or others.

Caring for employees in company cars is more straightforward than considering the safety of contractors driving their own privately-owned or leased vehicles, but those responsible for H&S within organisations need to plan how to formally identify vehicles that may fall below acceptable standards of safety, as any fatalities could have serious consequences for the organisation, even if the driver was a contractor.

Many organisations are increasingly turning to telematics for monitoring their own employees, which is again more straightforward to implement for such company car and van drivers. But with purely smartphone app-based telematics solutions like Apply Fleet from Trak Global launching on the market that allow users to switch the app to private mode when not driving ‘at work’, organisations may soon begin to request that contractors use such telematics apps for any business journeys they make too.

This news was brought to you by Umbrella’s partners,  Vehicle Consulting of Stockport, who provide discounted business car leasing and personal contract hire (PCH) prices to clients across the UK.

If you need any information you can always contact the Umbrella.co.uk team. Call: 0800 121 6513.
for more information visit www.umbrella.co.uk   Email: team@umbrella.co.uk