Being a healthcare sales professional places demands on your ability to negotiate routes, drive and park safely. Now, as Steve Johnson of the Fleet Safety Association explains, new legislation makes safety on the road a still higher priority.
The car is now an essential business tool that is effectively, if not formally in law, an extension of the workplace. As far as the UK Health and Safety Executive is concerned, the duty of care that all employers have for their staff’s welfare in the workplace extends to driving for work purposes.
Depending on which set of Government figures you believe, somewhere between 800 and 1000 drivers are killed ‘at work’ every year on Britain’s roads, and in excess of 8000 are seriously injured. The circumstances of every road fatality will now be investigated by the police as a matter of course, as if it were a criminal investigation. If it is felt that any contributory factor to the crash relates to the employer’s policies, procedures or general business management, the police will investigate further.
The implications, particularly for any wellknown and successful brand, should send a shiver down the collective spine of all those in senior management.
New road safety legislation
Though legislation is currently in place (see www.fleetsafetyassociation.co.uk/ Legislation.asp) to bring about a successful prosecution in the event of corporate failings, the situation is about to become still more serious with the introduction of the 2006 Road Safety Bill. From a vehicle fleet point of view, there are several new penalties that could impact on your business:
Although it is obviously the individual driver who will be most directly affected by these punitive measures, potentially there will be a negative impact on the business as a result. It is therefore vital that companies managing drivers have robust policies in place that demonstrate to any investigating authority that they have taken all reasonable steps to mitigate the risk that employees are exposed to.
At the least, this should comprise a set of guidelines that are issued to every driver so that employees know exactly what is expected of them when driving. This could be a hard copy driving manual or a document in electronic form on a company intranet. Either way, it is vital that the employee signs for it, or at least commits to having read and understood the contents.
Driver risk management
All members of the Fleet Safety Association are able to provide help, advice and even document templates to meet these requirements; but some commercial sectors, by virtue of their operating conditions, require additional specific advice. One company that specialises in the healthcare sales sector is Bloxham-based Drive & Survive, which has in place driver risk management programmes for about a dozen different healthcare-orientated companies. Although the type of driving-related risk that employees of healthcare companies are exposed to is comparable with the majority of other commercial organisations, there are quite a few special considerations to take into account. For instance, it is necessary to be aware of the threatening behaviour of certain animal rights activists towards healthcare representatives, and there are ways to anticipate certain vehicle-related actions they might take. Drivers carrying high-value items of medical equipment are clearly a target also, and they need to remain vigilant both while driving and while parked.
Managers must take a responsible attitude to what is achievable in a working day that involves driving. Fatigue is now a major contributory cause of crashes for business drivers, and they should be able to take at least a 15- minute break every two hours without feeling guilty.
While advice for dealing with these scenarios is accommodated within Drive & Survive courses, there is plenty of other guidance to ensure that healthcare representatives – who arguably use their cars as an extension of the office more than anyone else – avoid trouble:
The endless road
If employers look after the welfare of their drivers, they will be protecting a vital incomeearning asset and potentially their brand reputation. Also, any road safety programme delivered by a member of the Fleet Safety Association will be not only effective but also self-funding in terms of the consequent savings on fuel, insurance outgoings and general wear and tear. It really is a classic ‘win-win’ situation.
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