UK & Europe
Insurance & Reinsurance
According to the most recent published Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics published in July 2021, 142 workers were fatally injured in 2020/21; an increase of 29 from the previous year.
This represents a 28% yearly increase in workplace fatalities with the three most common incidents resulting in loss of life which are falls from height (35%), being struck by a moving vehicle (25%) and being struck by a moving object (17%). The majority of deaths were men with 30% of the total being aged 60 or over.
It would appear that despite the COVID-19 disruption to working hours and furlough, workplace fatalities have continued to rise. The risks appear both on the road and within the site/workplace environment in addition to attendance at third party sites.
Every year there are over 5,000 incidents which involve transport in the workplace and on average, 50 of those result in fatalities. Estimates suggest that up to one third of all road traffic accidents involve someone who is at work at the time.
In terms of the use of vehicles and transportation, particular risks in the workplace are:
There have been a spate of recent prosecutions that really highlight the issues and risks faced by businesses and drivers and which bring home the reality of the dangers of vehicles in the workplace.
The charges faced by defendants in these recent cases are significant; one including the most serious charge of gross negligence manslaughter which resulted in a director receiving a 15 year custodial sentence following conviction at trial for failing to replace faulty brakes on a heavy goods vehicle. The driver involved in the collision was also convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and received a six year sentence.
Other matters involve public inquiries held by the Traffic Commissioner which can result in directors being disqualified indefinitely from holding operator’s licence, or even the revocation of an operator’s licence. These outcomes can understandably have a significant detrimental effect on a business’s commercial and reputational concerns and in the worst case scenario, ability to continue trading.
Businesses need to be fully aware of the risks in and around their workplace and ensure effective control measures are implemented and maintained in order to comply with their duties under health and safety legislation.
But what can a business do to ensure it is operating safely and in compliance with the relevant legislation and so protect its position? There are a number of practical steps that can be taken, which include:
The Traffic Commissioners Office (TCO) has set out its strategic objectives for 2021-2023 as published on 9 August 2021. The TCO’s vision is to champion safe, fair and reliable transport for passengers and goods; and a new relationship with the DVSA is being developed. Legislative changes are planned to the operator licencing system which establish the integration of light goods vehicles and longer semi-trailers into the operator licencing system. Opportunities will be identified for the improved use of IT and preparation for the future means of transport, such as autonomous and electric vehicles.
Changes to the Highway Code will come into effect later this year. The hierarchy of road users will see drivers of larger vehicles such as lorries and coaches being given extra responsibility for the safety of road users who are potentially more at risk such as cyclists and pedestrians. The reformed Highway Code brings with it a controversial rule to give cyclists right of way to undertake turning vehicles, which is already a high risk zone for cyclists to position themselves in.
The government’s transport decarbonisation plan published on 14 July 2021 is highly ambitious. Across its 220 pages, strict timelines are set for the phasing out of sales of polluting vehicles and the aim for a net zero rail network by 2050. To support the implementation of this, a new regulatory framework is planned which should ensure the changes are brought into effect.
The General Safety Regulation sets out the safety technologies and design features that must become standard for all new vehicles sold by defined dates. This includes the requirement for all new vans to be fitted with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) including Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) by 2024.
The introduction of the Causing Death by Dangerous Driving (Sentencing) Bill in 2020 seeks to amend the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 to increase the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life imprisonment. In 2020,174 drivers were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving. In addition, 19 individuals were convicted of causing death by careless driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs. The present bill will bring life sentences for both offences.
The law commission has published jointly with the Scottish Law commission responses to its third consultation on automated vehicles. The proposals provide a framework for the roll out for regulation, approval, deployment, safety and criminal liability. Whilst doing this the law commission recognised that there are many unknowns regarding the development of self-driving technology, its capabilities and social acceptance. The final report is due at the end of this year.
It is clear that significant changes and developments are on the way with regards to not only driving behaviours, but also the capabilities of our vehicles in the future. Businesses need to be aware of the planned changes and be ready to implement these where required to do so, and implement the necessary training and knowledge sharing across the workforce to ensure awareness and compliance across the board. Failure to acknowledge and adopt the changes could prove costly in every way.
*This content was written by BLM prior to its merger with Clyde & Co*