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Exposure to risk can lead to the downfall of any business or organisation

Limiting risk is the goal of everyone concerned with health and safety. Today’s HR or Fleet Manager is faced with a mountain of legislation for duty of care requirements. With so many laws to follow and demands upon their time, why is it necessary to check driving licences?

It has been stated that by the strict letter of the law, there is no mandatory requirement to do ongoing checks of driving licences. Once employed or contracted it can be left to the driver to ensure that the licence is current and still valid. But this is a high risk approach to take.

The essence of the law determines that it is the responsibility of businesses and organisations to ensure that their drivers are entitled and safe to drive for business purposes. By doing so, the business or organisation can filter out any disqualified or invalidly licensed drivers. Concerning driving for work, reviewing the current legislation highlights the obligations and the associated risks within businesses and organisations.

The Driver – Duty to Protect

The first general principle of the legislation that covers occupational health and safety, states that it is the duty of an employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all employees when at work. A caveat stating where it is reasonably practical to do so. Following on it states that the employees must take reasonable care of themselves and of others who may be affected by any acts or omissions at work. It cautions that the employee must co-operate with the employer when invoking any health and safety requirement to facilitate this. Driving a vehicle is not specifically mentioned, but the very wording states that everyone is responsible for ensuring that job activities are as risk free as possible. The concept expecting the relevant consciousness of hazardous situations. Drivers have a responsibility to care for themselves, work colleagues, the public and their employer. The employer has a duty to provide the environment for the employee to carry out that responsibility of care.

The Vehicle – Avoidance of Danger

Vehicle specific regulations also include an awareness of driver related risks within the rules associated to the Avoidance of Danger (Section IV-F), it includes regulations concerning driver duties. It expects that the driver in charge of the vehicle has an understanding of the regulations for the type of vehicle being driven. It makes it clear that no vehicle is to be used in a way that can cause danger or nuisance to any person. It regulates that drivers must be capable of controlling the vehicle. The emphasis of this act is that the vehicle is safe to be driven on the roads and that the driver is qualified and safe to do so. The duty of the employer here is to ensure that the vehicle is maintained and legally certified to be driven and that the employee has the correct and valid licence category in order to carry out the driving activities of that vehicle.

The Road – Licensed to Drive

Underpinning and building on the above driver and vehicle regulations, the legislation regarding road traffic, makes clear the legal requirements for a vehicle owner/operator and the driver. The licensing requirements including training, health and fitness are all detailed. Including the penalties for failing to comply with any of the component parts of the principles set out within the act. These necessary controls are in place in order to enable the roads to be used in as safe and as sensible a way as possible. The penalties are there to remove and restrict the dangers caused by some vehicles and some drivers. Employers and employees are duty bound to ensure that their vehicles are compliant, that the legal requirements to drive a vehicle are in place.

The Corporation – Liability Awareness

The corporate heavyweight of legislation when it comes to duty of care, could be considered daunting. But this need not be so as long as all efforts to ensure risks are evaluated and assessed. Whilst it can lead to a prosecution for a failure to address health and safety requirements where the failure leads to a critical accident, if the correct management processes and task procedures are set up, then liabilities are limited. That said, it then becomes necessary that an employer does not fall into the trap of become an accessory to an offence. If a driver is involved in an accident that causes the death of someone and the licence of the driver is invalid in any way, then if the employer has also failed to ensure that the driver was entitled to drive at the time of the offence, the employer can be considered as an accessory.

Each act and regulation emphasise health and safety in the task of driving any vehicle, for business and for non-business reasons. Risks to health and safety can be limited if proper adherence to the letter and the spirit of the law and regulation is applied.

Duties not directly implied by law, should be tied and linked to existing health and safety processes and procedures. This is the reason that ongoing licence checking is so important, why it is so necessary.

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