Work Vehicle Crash Injury? Could Your Employer be Liable?

According to the Health and Safety Executive, around one third of all road accidents involve someone who is driving for work purposes. This accounts for around 20 fatalities and 250 injuries each week. Many employers believe that they are compliant with health and safety guidelines because they are within the road traffic laws, such as ensuring that a vehicle has passed its MOT or that the driver has a valid driving license. However, health and safety laws extend to on-the-road work activities, just as they would in the workplace itself.

The legislation applies to all managers, employers and supervising staff who have employees who drive any vehicle, including motorcycles and bicycles at work or for work purposes. In addition, the laws are applicable to selfemployed people, who use vehicles as part of their work. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974, it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure the health and safety of all employees whilst they are at work. Interestingly, the law does not apply to commuting, unless the employee is driving to somewhere other than his usual place of work. Yet, recently, there has been a case where a potato firm has been deemed liable for the death of an employee, whilst he travelled from work to home. In this case, known as the ‘Produce Connection’ case, the employee had completed a third consecutive shift of almost 20 hours. In this case, the court found that the employer was liable, as they had not been monitoring the employee’s shift pattern.

The HSE has laid down a number of guidelines for employers. If you are involved in an accident and feel that it is because some of these strictures have not been followed, then you need to seek the services of a work accident injury lawyer. They will be looking to see whether or not your employer has adhered to these guidelines. The recommendations include factors such as regular inspection of vehicles to ensure they comply with the manufacturer’s safety standards. The performance of drivers should also be monitored; collating information so that informed decisions about existing policy and any need for change can be made. As in the workplace, risk assessments can be carried out, to minimise the potential for injury or fatality. This might include a review of delivery schedules to ensure that they are not unreasonable or that protective clothing is issued, where applicable.

Training is an important part of any workplace and, as an employee you should undertake a training programme to ensure your safety on the road. Topics should include factors such as knowing how to correctly adjust any safety equipment, knowing how to ensure safe and even distribution of any cargo and being aware of the height of the vehicle, when it is empty and under load; the HSE estimates that there are around six major bridge strikes every day which, given the right training, could possibly have been avoided.

Without the right precautions in place, a job that involves driving can be extremely hazardous. If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident whilst performing work duties on the road, you should consider it in the same way as any accident in the workplace. Road accidents often have a higher incidence of serious injury and a work accident injury lawyer will be able to tell you whether you have a case to claim for compensation.

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