Snow and the risks to companies with employees travelling for business purposes

January 7, 2010

The snow has caused chaos for many UK businesses where working from home is not an option. The risks have now risen for businesses that have not considered their work related road safety (WRRS) policy for employees that have to drive for work.

Under the new revisions to the corporate manslaughter act and corporate homicide act, companies and senior management are accountable in the case of a fatal work related collision for any shortcomings in the procedures or systems that may be deemed to have contributed to the incident. This means that if there is a fatality, employers can now be investigated if it was during working hours.

Many companies that insist on employees making their way into work, despite the extreme conditions should consider their responsibilities under the new Corporate Manslaughter Act.

Despite ongoing publicity surrounding the revisions to the corporate manslaughter act and corporate homicide act which came into force in April 2008 many companies, particularly SME’s have chosen to bury their heads in the sand and are failing to review, implement and communicate an effective Work Related Road Safety (WRRS) policy.

Under the new rules, companies and senior management are accountable in the case of a fatal work related collision for any shortcomings in the procedures or systems that may be deemed to have contributed to the incident.

Research carried out by Rent-A-Car shows that more than one in three workers (35 per cent) use their car for business purposes, making it the most common form of business transport.

Providing “cash for cars” does not mean that a company absolves itself of responsibility for ensuring the safety of these vehicles and their drivers. Managing the safety of these so called “grey fleet” drivers is difficult but cannot be ignored.

Employers with responsibility for employees driving their own cars on business should take the following precautions:

  • Set up a company work related road safety policy: employers should not be daunted by the prospect, and once in place, providing it is enforced and reviewed periodically, it has been proven by many organisations to save money in terms of insurance premiums, accident repairs, out of service costs, accident administration, and employee sick leave/work injuries etc. Risk-assess the fleet across the five core areas: legislation, health and safety, environmental, employee and financial. Set out rules, guidelines and procedures to help minimize “in house” fleet and “grey fleet” related risks and put in place regular checks on insurance, MOT document’s, scheduled servicing and ensure basic maintenance checks are regularly carried out. Finally, ensure that an efficient audit trail is in place.
  • Compile a “Driver Manual”: a driver manual should contain the company policy and procedures, safe driving information, emergency contact information, procedures for reporting defects and repairs, what should be done in the case of an accident and outline essential vehicle checks. It should be in A5 format, concise and easy to read and include practical advice.
  • Treat all drivers the same: whether the employee is in a company car or drives their own vehicle (grey fleet), they should be treated exactly the same. The company work related road safety policy, driver manual and related training should be provided to all drivers. Businesses should ensure that all drivers regularly maintain their vehicles. Regular checks by the company should be made on:
    • Fluid levels and battery.
    • Lights and windscreen wipers.
    • Tyre pressures and tread levels: 1.6mm of tread over the centre 3/4 width of the tyre is the legal minimum; tyres should be changed before this to avoid police prosecution and to maintain the required levels of grip. The police have the power to fine drivers up to £2500 plus three penalty points per tyre for less than minimum treads.
    • Ensure the driver has adequate insurance that allows the car to be used for business purposes. Both the driver and the employer can be fined if the car is not insured adequately and may find that they are not covered in the event of an accident.
    • Ensure the car has regular MOTs and is taxed for the road.
  • Check driving licenses: check any new employees driving license to confirm that they are eligible to drive. Implement a regular check on driving licenses to keep track of penalty points and possible driving bans and maintain a driver file to monitor driver’s safety records and behaviour.
  • Ensure all drivers are prepared in the event of an emergency: company car users should be equipped with safety packs including torch, high visibility clothing, warning triangle, and breakdown contact information. Employers should ensure grey fleet drivers are supplied with exactly the same safety equipment.
  • Ensure every driver carries a high visibility vest for each passenger: It is also important to store medical and emergency contact information as well as essential vehicle details and roadside assistance contact information inside the passenger cell of the vehicle together with the high visibility vests so that it is easily accessible.
  • Education: carry out training where appropriate and warn against drugs and alcohol whilst driving. It is also important to give drivers plenty of time to get to their next location and don’t set impossible schedules – this is especially relevant in the delivery and courier sector where the setting of productivity bonuses which might affect driver safety will be viewed upon  negatively in the event of a road traffic incident. 

The revisions to the corporate manslaughter act provide stronger powers for the police and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to conduct investigations following an incident into a company’s provision of adequate health and safety at work policies. In a concerted attempt to reduce road deaths and casualties Work Related Road Safety (WRRS) is firmly under the spotlight and relates to the safety of employees who drive as part of their work. This is understandable when it is suggested that at least 30 per cent of road collisions involve people who are at work and more recent figures suggest that 50 per cent may be a more realistic figure.

In April 2008, revisions to the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force in the UK.  The Act enables an organisation to be found guilty of an offence under the Act, if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death, and amounts to a gross breach or failure of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased. The result of being found guilty of an offence under this Act is that organisations can now face unlimited fines – set to start at five per cent of annual turnover.


Twitter: social irritation or powerful free marketing tool?

January 6, 2010

Parents know that social networking sites such as Facebook are a great way of finding out what their teenage children are up to but they can also be used by businesses to build relationships with their customers.

Twitter, the fastest growing social networking site of 2009, is to the Internet what texting is to mobile phones. By limiting users to just 140 characters per message, or ‘tweet’, Twitter provides the immediacy of a two way conversation on the Internet.

I asked Anthony Lloyd, owner of the Fallowfields Hotel in Kingston Bagpuize, to tell me how he is successfully using Twitter to market his Hotel.

“We have had tremendous success with Twitter, but not with direct responses to individual Tweets.

My style is to build up interest in getting people to follow my tweets – I have about 1600 followers to date, they are all targeted and all in the UK.

A lovely PR lady I met this morning at a BNI meeting said, ‘you express your personality on Twitter’. I think she meant this as a compliment – she booked something so I guess it was!”

Fallowfields Hotel is committed to sourcing food locally and even has its own farm.

“To develop interest, the farm gets a mention” says Anthony, “photographs of the animals; a bit of foodie stuff; other restaurants that I have been to and enjoyed; a bit of marketing and a bit of general business stuff; some charity stuff; I RT interesting bits of information, and above all use @mentions and DMs to engage with people, building the relationship to a point that it can be developed further off Twitter. If there is a secret, this is it.”

Anthony is clearly an experienced user of Twitter so I asked him if there are any “don’ts” to go with the “do’s”

“What I do not do is to use “tweet later” tools, because this repetitive form of self promotion/advertising is easily recognisable and turns people off.

Neither do I do the ‘good night tweets’ such as the ‘just had a ham sandwich, glass of Horlicks’ type of tweet.”

Perhaps the most important question to ask is how successful has Anthony’s Twitter marketing been?

“In the last 3 months I’ve had about 50 to 60 people through the restaurant, a conference for 50 booked for January and one overnight stay”

In addition to the very real business benefits, Anthony has also had

“Invitations to networking groups, some very good new friends, some great advice, some great fun, new golfing partners and there’s much, much more to come, I know it.

I’m not sure whether I have heard this benefit articulated elsewhere but I have found Twitter to be a great “accelerator of relationships”. With people I have engaged with on Twitter and then met face to face, the relationship starts from a higher level.

Twitter has the capability to be a powerful marketing tool for your business – and it is completely free – all it takes is the time to make it work.

“There is no magic to ‘selling’” says Anthony “and I was taught the formulae by the grand masters at IBM many years ago! Twittering is simply an up to date formula – the principles are identical to those learnt all those years ago.

To find out more about twitter go to http://twitter.com

Anthony Lloyd can be found on twitter at http://twitter.com/FallowfieldsUK

 David Doughty, Oxfordshire Economic Partnership for Horizons and Futures Magazine, Spring 2010


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