Employers that employ staff in a driving role, or employees who are expected to drive in the course of business, are being advised to take note of recent updates to the Highway Code, ensuring that the changes are communicated to relevant employees and that their Road Safety Policies are amended accordingly.
The controversial Highway Code amendments, which were introduced on 29 January 2022, saw updates to nine sections of the code, with 50 rules added or changed. Significantly, the code now includes a new risk-based ‘hierarchy of road users’, with motorists now expected to give way to people crossing at a junction and give priority to cyclists, horse riders and people driving horse-drawn vehicles at roundabouts.
All organisations need to familiarise themselves with the new changes and communicate them in a timely manner to relevant workers. This is part of their duty of care under the Health & Safety at Work Act and the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations to manage occupational road risks.
Additionally, employers should ensure that any existing road safety policy and drivers handbook makes reference to the latest version of the Highway Code, and that any changes to the policy are communicated and understood by employees.
There are many issues that can arise where an employee is driving in the course of their employment and as such, employers may wish to use the introduction of the new rules as part of a wider process of reviewing their road safety policy or developing one if not already in place. A well-considered and drafted policy can help to protect employers from being held liable for the negligent acts of their employees whilst driving or out on the road as part of their employment duties.
Road safety policies can cover a wide range of factors, which may vary depending on the nature of the business. In general, they should detail driver suitability, fitness and training; the responsibility to maintain a vehicle, the need to take regular breaks, phone-use, smoking, eating / drinking while driving and guidance on allowing realistic timescales for journeys to prevent stress or pressure.
Having employees that drive during the course of employment can give rise to many potential issues for employers and reflecting changes in legislation in workplace policies is an important step in protecting both employees and business interests.
If you are an employer and have any concerns about your policies or contracts relating to drivers, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01942 727200 and speak to one of our Health & Safety or HR consultants for an initial consultation without charge or obligation.