You’ve sorted your employment policies, complied with holiday and sick leave requirements, and ticked the company tax box.
But have you thought about a safe driving policy for you and your staff? No matter what kind of company you operate, or how many staff you have, most businesses need to send their employees out on the road from time to time. Driving is one of the most high-risk activities an employee can undertake.
ACC figures show that work-related crashes – including those of employees commuting to and from work – account for around half of all workplace deaths.
A comprehensive, regularly updated safe driving policy is essential to ensure that you and your employees are protected from injury. It’s not just a ‘good’ thing to have, either – a safe driving policy helps employers meet their obligations under New Zealand’s Health and Safety Employment Act 1992 (HSE Act). In the eyes of the law, a vehicle is considered a place of work and employees who drive for work are covered by the HSE Act.
The benefits of a safe driving policy extend beyond simply meeting your obligations. It can also save you money by decreasing your maintenance costs (less tyre wear, for example) and promoting better travel planning and more economical driving. Additionally, having an easily accessible safe driving policy can improve workplace morale and well-being. It gets staff on the same page and helps them know what is expected of them. And, as any of us who’ve witnessed unsafe driving from vehicles emblazoned with a company’s logo know, how your team drives can also impact on the public’s perception of your brand.
So far, so sensible. But what strategies should you include in a safe driving policy and how do you enforce them?
Staff should have a clear understanding of expectations and responsibilities. Outline your expectations and processes around traffic and parking infringements, licensing, reporting accidents/damages, and regular vehicle checks.
Next, outline the state that vehicles should be kept in, ensuring that the car tyres, lights, engine and other parts all work correctly before they are driven.
Drivers’ work hours should also be clearly set out to prevent fatigue-related impairment and to take into account adequate travel time between jobs.
Limiting your drivers’ hours and mandating regular breaks is a great start in combating driver fatigue, but if your team is regularly on the road for long periods of time it might pay to consider tools such as a fatigue monitoring system. These systems monitor a driver’s face and eyes to determine alertness and wakefulness, intervening in case of unsafe driving behaviour. At Z, we use one of these systems in order to ensure our fleet drivers stay attentive on the road.
Regular driver training courses can be key to improving driver awareness and safety. There are a number of options for keeping your drivers’ skills sharp, including in-house training, defensive driving courses, NZTA driver online self-assessments (which help drivers examine and compare their own ability with the requirements for safe driving), and 40-minute driving instruction sessions offered by the NZTA.
While we hope your business is never involved in an accident, it pays to prepare your team to handle first aid situations on the road. You’re probably already running regular first aid courses in your business as part of your health and safety requirements – so, why not include a focus on treating crash-related injuries and what to do in case of an accident. Make sure you are backing this up by providing the right equipment in your vehicles - check that they are equipped with a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, torch, a reflective vest and an emergency triangle.
In-vehicle software can play a key part in keeping you, your staff, and the road-using public safe. Z uses a heads-up display in its fleet cabs, which warns drivers of excess speeds. This satellite-driven function beeps at drivers and continues to flash a warning display if speed isn’t reduced.
It helps, of course, if your fleet features vehicles with high safety ratings. These include Electronic Stability Control systems that use sensors to detect and prevent a vehicle going out of control, a four-star minimum ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Programme) crash rating, and a full suite of airbags.
It might seem like one more thing business owners have to comply with, but providing a company handbook that’s a quick reference guide to staff responsibilities and the company’s expectations of them while they’re out on the road can pay dividends in the long run. It should include key contacts and their phone numbers as well as who to contact when an accident occurs and information for accident helplines, insurance and other important numbers.
Encouraging good driving is good business and having an active safe driving policy can protect you, your staff and your brand/reputation.