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Police gain tighter crash probe rules

Date: 02 August 2006

Stricter, clearer guidance has been issued to police forces investigating at-work road accidents. The Road Death Investigation Manual appendix requires police to spot incidents that are caused by safety failures; and for these management failures to be investigated.

The appendix has been drafted by a group from the Health & Safety Executive, Department for Transport and the Association of Chief Police Officers.

The directive identifies where police responsibilities under road traffic legislation end and where the HSE should be involved.

The guidance shows where failures in an employer's safety management have contributed to an incident, particularly where the risks could have been identified and were beyond the driver's control.

"The new addition is enormous. It takes away any grey areas regarding employer responsibility," commented Diarmuid Fahy, fleet risk manager, ING Car Lease. "I'm surprised the HSE guidance is so clear, so direct. In particular, it has huge ramifications for fleets with cash-for-car drivers. It means they must drive a vehicle that's fit for purpose."

The RDIM guidance picks out the following risks:

Unsafe drivers - where the employer has not identified or ensured the competence of the driver, or where the employer has neglected identifiable signs that the driver is unfit to drive due to alcohol or medicines;

Journeys or activities that are clearly unsuitable;

Unsafe vehicles - where there are no management strategies in place to safeguard the correct maintenance of the equipment;

Existence of risk - that could result in future accidents which cannot be addressed using current road traffic legislation.

"The new RDIM advice provides clarification for business travel. Employers offering cash-for-car will require specific management procedures to ensure compliance," added Fahy. "You cannot pass on responsibility by passing on the cash."

Fahy said companies would need systems that offered a record and demonstration of risk management procedures. These included a copy of an MoT certificate; business insurance; driving licence; service details; and a check of the vehicle on an annual basis.

"This is fundamental. If an employer is investigated, then they have a definitive process to show they have done everything reasonable to safeguard their employees."

This latest police guidance demonstrates the increasing emphasis being placed on at-work driving safety. The Metropolitan Police announced in July a new policy to visit companies where drivers have been found guilty of using hand-held mobiles.

"Poor behaviour by drivers is a performance indicator of a company's approach to road risk," commented Ian Brooks from the Metropolitan Police.