By the time you read this, Coronavirus lockdown measures will have eased as the Government tries to get back to normal and kick start the economy.
Non-essential shops were permitted to re-open on the 15 June, and people who cannot work from home are still being encouraged to go back to work.
While these steps hint towards a return to normality, being encouraged to avoid public transport isn’t, and ultimately for most people, this means driving. But how does this shift from tube carriage to car affect road safety and people returning to driving for work?
While many people will feel their driving skills will not have faded over time, it is worth bearing in mind that furloughed employees may not have driven for almost four months or more.
For those employees who have driven during the lockdown, many may not have driven their work vehicle, which might be larger and have a different layout to their personal car, so they might need a period of adjustment.
Given the furlough situation, employers might also be asking people who do not usually drive for work to do so, which is likely to be a notable change from what employees might usually do day to day at work.
While MOT expiry dates for those due to expire on or after 30 March 2020 have been extended, the Government is clear that vehicles must be kept safe and roadworthy.
Personal and work vehicles might have sat idle for some time and gone without necessary safety checks that might usually have been carried out (headlights, battery, windscreen wipers, tyre pressure, oil level, mirrors, loads, trailer coupling etc.).
Failure to manage the safety of a vehicle risks fines, penalty points and bans from driving for individuals.
Employers can be held liable for failures to manage road risk under health and safety law. Unlimited fines and publicity orders can also be faced by organisations under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, 2007, if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a death and there was a gross breach of a duty of care to the deceased.
More traffic on the roads
As more workplaces open up and people go back to work, more people will move towards driving, so it is inevitable that traffic will increase. This might also increase the risk of accidents on the road.
Drivers are also likely to see a vast increase of cyclists and motorbikes on the road than ever before, something which they are going to have to get familiar with.
Carpooling and sharing of work vehicles
To help people off public transport and into vehicles, carpooling, where more than one person is in the vehicle, might seem a viable option to help each other out. While this does help take vehicles off the road and people off public transport, there are considerations which need to be paid to this concerning Coronavirus transmission where people are in close contact for more than 15 minutes.
The Government has written specific guidance for employers where employees who specifically drive for work and share work vehicles.
Stress and fatigue
Statistics from Brake, a UK road safety charity, show that stress and anger at the wheel is an issue for many drivers. A survey of UK drivers found that 71% had lost concentration at the wheel, with the most common reason for this being the behaviour of other road users (60%), followed by stress about personal issues (44%) and work-related stress (39%).
The likely increase in traffic on the roads may lead to longer journey times and therefore earlier starts and later finishes. Further statistics from Brake show peak times for fatigue-related crashes are within the hours of 2 am to 6 am, and 2 pm to 4 pm, when drivers are naturally sleepier, and that drivers are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel at 6 am than they are at 10 am.
What action can an employer take to manage risks?
1. Carry out a risk assessment for driving for work.
Control measures recommended by the Government include keeping people in vehicles to a minimum, single person or contactless refuelling, physical screening where possible, cohorting employees, increasing ventilation in vehicles and regular cleaning between users. For Government guidance on risk assessment click here.
2. Prepare employees for driving and possible changes to traffic volume and type.
Manage work schedules to ensure employees who drive for work have sufficient time to complete their jobs to avoid speeding, do not drive excessive hours, get adequate breaks and rest periods and, avoid driving in the peak accident hours, where possible.
Ask employees that are returning from furlough or for anyone that has not had to drive for work for some time to confirm there are no changes to their circumstances and fitness to drive. Information on fitness to drive is here.
If you need any further information on post lockdown return to work risk assessments or there is anything else we can help you with get in touch.