HR FEEDBACK: 'Kill bill' cases begin
20 May 2009
The first corporate manslaughter case is due in court next month, so it's only a matter of time before a road death incident hits the headlines, writes Paul Barker
First kill bill case
The first corporate manslaughter case is heading for court next month. Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings has been charged over the death of a 27-year old employee who was killed when a pit collapsed while he was taking soil samples. The case will be heard at Stroud Magistrates Court on 17 June, when company director Peter Eaton will also face health and safety accusations.
It has nothing directly to do with cars or driving, but this case could be the one that makes the industry sit up and take corporate manslaughter seriously. Reports suggest there are many more cases relating to accidents that occurred in 2008 also under investigation, so it's only a matter of time before something related to road deaths hits the headlines. Fleets must make sure their policies are watertight.
Get tough on grey drivers
The Fleet Support Group is urging companies to get tough on drivers that refuse requests for personal and vehicle data, particularly from grey fleet drivers using their own car on work business. FSG claims WH Smith is refusing to pay mileage claims to those who refuse to comply, The Labour Party is banning employees from driving on business, and other organisations are refusing workers permission to hire a car if documentation isn't produced. The company says employees could find themselves in court if they have an accident after failing to comply with firms' safe driving policies despite repeated requests.
It's entirely correct that fleet bosses need to get tough with people refusing to hand over licence, servicing or insurance documents, or refusing to sign up to company car policies. Business car fleets need to have their policy in order, but just as important is that it's followed by all staff. Once one gets away with it, the rest will follow, so getting tough is the only way to show how serious the situation is. And it's generally those with something to hide that will complain, which makes it even more important to have the policy enforced.
The cost of a stop
A new survey has emphasised the cost of stopping at motorway service stations. Which? Car found bottles of water at four times supermarket price and diesel at an average 4p and 5p per litre more respectively than could have been found within five miles of the service station.
It's amazing that motorway service stations are still being allowed by drivers to get away with charging these prices, but unfortunately it's probably fleets that are largely to blame. With the internet, it doesn't take much research to plan a fuel stop, even if a driver is in unfamiliar territory, so there's no excuse for paying inflated motorway prices. Maybe incentivising drivers to take more care about where they're filling could save fleets some much-needed cash. Motorway service stations only charge what they do because people pay it.
Health and safety risk part 1
Fleets extending vehicle contracts beyond the traditional three-year replacement cycles need to take into account the extra health and safety risks, warns fleet software expert CFC Solutions' boss Neville Briggs.
"The recent Corporate Manslaughter Act makes it clear that fleets must be able to demonstrate that they are following exactly manufacturer and other regular service and maintenance actions throughout the life of the vehicle. On older cars and vans this issue becomes ever more acute because the chances of wear failure increase."
Obviously it's even more important on older cars to make sure they're maintained in tip-top condition. And monitoring this is key, because if you start adding in the cost of replacing worn parts on older cars, it may be that replacing them with new models starts to make more sense. Either way, there's no excuse for any cars not being in optimum condition when your employees are driving them on work business.
Health and safety risk part 2
HR managers have been warned to make sure that their private hire and chauffeur-driven operators are meeting duty of care risks.
The Institute of Professional Drivers and Chauffeurs has warned that health and safety still isn't registering with "anywhere near the number of operators that it should".
It's not enough to be relying on firms you contract work out to, such as taxi companies, to take care of their own health and safety requirements. You should be requesting proof of service and maintenance schedules and driver licence checking to make sure they're safe to carry your employees.
Change of attitude?
Last Friday was national Work From Home Day. Organised by Work Wise UK, which estimated 5m people would take part, the not-for-profit organisation is working toward a goal of half the working population - 14m people - being given the option to work from home by 2011.
Too many businesses still see working from home as less productive, when every case study from more open-minded firms that employ the tactic proves the reverse to be true.
The opportunity to work from home, even occasionally, gives employees a great sense of trust and better work-life balance, as well as cutting congestion, saving the firm and employee money and increasing productivity.