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Under the Microscope: We talk to RoSPA's fleet safety consultant, John Greenhough

Date: 03 July 2018   |   Author: Rachel Boagey

Rachel Boagey visits RoSPA's fleet safety consultant, John Greenhough, to learn about the necessity of fleets taking safety seriously.

For most people, driving for work is the most dangerous occupational activity they undertake, yet RoSPA believes many firms are not managing their fleets effectively. But why is this?

The reason may be a lack of time, money,  or resources, but the reality is, many companies are just not aware that anyone who drives as part of their business is a fleet driver. Yes, anyone. 

It's not just those who drive a company car every day to reach their next job. It could be someone for whom driving is only occasionally part of their role. Whether the employee is in command of the starship Enterprise or just drops the post off as a favour on their way home from work, they are part of the company's fleet and they should therefore have some driver training. 

In short, employers have clear duties under health and safety law to manage occupational road risk in the same way that they manage other risks. And that's where RoSPA comes in.

John Greenhough

Based in Birmingham, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is a charitable company that has been running for more than 100 years and aims to help organisations improve the safety of their fleet drivers. We speak to the company's fleet safety consultant, John Greenhough, to find out about why fleet safety is so important for fleets to handle correctly and properly. 

"What many companies aren't aware of is that if a vehicle is being used for absolutely any type of work, then it's classed as a company vehicle, even though it could well be grey fleet; it means it still needs to be treated in the same way as all of the other company cars on the fleet," he says. "It's something you'd be surprised to learn many fleet companies and managers are somewhat unaware of, which is very worrying because if something happens while that driver is out on the road driving for work then ultimately it's the company's responsibility."

Essentially, what Greenhough and RoSPA are pushing is that fleet management, or the 'management of occupational road risk', which the company calls MORR, must be addressed as a core health and safety issue, not just a side issue. 

Fleet management training is an essential part of this process, and RoSPA runs many training courses so that fleets can ensure they're complying with the law when it comes to their employees. 

Safety from the top down 

When it comes to fleets, RoSPA looks at safety from a regulation point of view and helps organisations to make sure they are complying with elements of the legislation that are enforced, and managing safety of their drivers.

Recently, the organisation launched a new course to help companies improve the safety of their drivers, called the Driver Mentor and Assessor Programme. RoSPA worked with energy company SSE to help it improve the standard of driving across its fleet of 7,500 vehicles. The course is aimed at employees who are responsible for in-house driving assessments, providing attendees with the skills to assess and mentor drivers. 

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"It's so important that fleet safety trickles down from the top, with people responsible for safety making sure everyone at the company is aware of their responsibilities," says Greenhough. "Our RoSPA fleet management courses equip senior managers with the knowledge and guidance to stay on top of essential safety know-how, to ensure they're training their drivers with the correct driving for work information and have proper guidelines in place."

No mobile when mobile 

One policy that Greenhough draws attention to as being particularly important for fleets
to address, and to highlight the dangers of to their drivers, is using their phones while driving.

"Time and time again I've visited fleets and asked them what their alcohol policy is, what their mobile phone policy is, and time and time again I get told that it's based on the law and its restrictions for the drink driving limit or making sure the driver is connected to hands-free as the law says.

"What they're not understanding is that if that driver is involved in any type of accident and is driving for their business, the company is completely liable for that accident. The reality is that the law for mobile phone driving was introduced in the 1980s and despite being updated, hands-free is still a bit of a loophole. If there was to be a fatality and it emerged that your employee was on the phone on hands-free, they could be prosecuted for negligent driving. It's something surprisingly not many fleets seem to know." 

RoSPA's policy is therefore simply "no mobile when mobile", explains Greenhough, "as the law says that using hands-free is no different when involved in a collision as holding your mobile phone in your hand. The truth is, technology always runs so far ahead of legislation and just because we can doesn't mean we should," Greenhough adds. "These are the things we want fleets to understand and we're inviting them to come to us for guidance on topics like this. Working with us will ensure that nothing like this is ignored or accidentally misunderstood and fleets aren't stung for something they were unaware of."

Even though fleets might be trying to ensure their drivers are safe while out on the roads, in reality they may just not have the expertise to know how to, or the knowledge of the laws that might affect them. "Our job is to ensure fleets don't get it wrong and don't put themselves at risk of fines or court cases. We pride ourselves on being able to help companies understand what could seriously damage their organisation; as at the end of the day, if the driver isn't trained properly or the company isn't following the law, then it could have very serious consequences."

A particularly sombre example Greenhough highlights is of a case where a driver ploughed into the back of a stationary vehicle on the motorway and caused four fatalities. "This particular case hit headlines everywhere and the dashcam footage of the lead-up to the crash is freely available for people to find online, as is the name of the driver who was using his mobile phone, the location of the accident and the names of the people who were killed. The only bit of information that's missing is the 'who' when it comes to the company name as the man in question was driving for a large fleet company," says Greenhough. The reason the company wasn't named? "The driver was already on a warning for using his mobile before and had been put through all the essential fleet safety training and the company could back all this up with evidence in court. They did everything right; it's just a shame that the driver didn't listen or learn."

But RoSPA doesn't want to sell packages via scaremongering. "We can provide bespoke packages to companies and will provide them with all of the support and help they need. We can either offer this as a one-off package or we can stick around and help the company on a regular basis. The best thing is all of the profits we make from helping fleets go back into the charity too," concludes Greenhough. 



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