Two sets of law apply to work-related road safety.
Health and Safety law focuses primarily (but not exclusively) on the duties of employers to establish safe systems of work. Key duties include undertaking risk assessments and putting in place health and safety management systems to ensure safe systems of work. The HSE guide for employers, 'Driving at Work' (INDG 382), revised in 2014, states:
"health and safety law applies to on-the-road work activities ...and the risks should be effectively managed within a health and safety system".
Road Traffic law is concerned mainly with individual driver behaviour and the vehicle owner. However, the enforcement of road traffic law does not usually address the extent to which employers have discharged their duties of care, for example by establishing safe journey parameters or providing appropriate vehicles.
The police take the lead on investigating road traffic incidents on public roads. The HSE will take enforcement action where the police identify that serious management failures have been a significant contributory factor to the incident.
"The police ask questions at the scene of road crashes about whether drivers are at work. When investigating serious road crashes, they follow the Authorised Professional Practice on Investigating Road Deaths". They "begin a road death investigation by adopting the mindset of unlawful killing, until the contrary is proved substantially."
The Police investigate all at-work road deaths (and incidents likely to result in death) and maintain primacy under road traffic legislation. The definition of at work, in these circumstances, excludes commuting journeys between home and normal work place. They alert the Health and Safety Executive where, on the basis of their investigation, they believe the HSE should become involved in a road death investigation. If in doubt, the road policing senior investigating officer will discuss the circumstances with the HSE. If the HSE decides to undertake an investigation it liaises with the police throughout, in accordance with existing protocols."
Employers can be charged with offences under health and safety law, with Corporate Manslaughter, and/or with various 'cause or permit' provisions in road traffic law.
Drivers can be charged with a range of motoring offences, including in the most serious cases, causing death by dangerous driving or causing death by careless driving."
In addition to the legal risks under health and safety and road traffic law, employers could also face civil litigation if an accident involving a member of staff who was using the road for work purposes resulted in damage or injury to the member of staff and/or a third party. There is no shortage of legal firms who are prepared to take on these cases, often on a 'no win, no fee' basis.
Balance of Responsibility
Work related road safety is a shared responsibility between employer and employee.