The connected workforce: mind the safety gap
The field and office have been brought ever closer thanks to tech advancements – but their health and safety requirements remain very different. Andrew Garlick, Tom Tom Telematics’ Corporate Sales Manager, explores the risk management processes HR professionals should have in place to meet their moral and legal obligations.
When an activity becomes routine, there is a risk of inherent dangers not being adequately recognised, appreciated or being given the attention they deserve.
This phenomenon has been dubbed in some quarters as ‘the illusory zone of immunity’.
Driving is a powerful case in point – an activity that is so ingrained in our everyday life that, for some, the associated risks can be hidden in plain sight.
Consequently, it would appear that a large number of businesses, in particular, have failed to tackle the issue. A TomTom Telematics study found that one fifth of UK companies, whose employees drive for work purposes, do not have a defined road safety policy in place. This, despite more than a quarter of all reported road casualties resulting from accidents that involve someone using the road for work purposes1.
One of the problems may be the lack of specific regulations applying to cars and vans, in the way that there are for truck operators.
The situation may also have been exacerbated by the fact that many companies still do not see driving as a core business function, despite the fact many of their employees do it on a daily basis. Notably, grey fleets –vehicles driven for work purposes that are not owned or leased by companies – can often be overlooked if the responsibility for them is not clearly assigned to individuals or company departments. HR or health and safety managers will often be best placed to oversee these, and to implement appropriate risk management programmes.
Addressing road safety: a spotlight on risk data
Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power. However, although businesses have access to more business intelligence than ever before, employee risk data may not be as readily available as information generated for general operational purposes.
To help overcome this, an individual should ultimately be tasked with taking ownership of employee risk data – for its acquisition, collation and analysis.
From a road risk perspective, solid intelligence is vital if a meaningful risk audit is to be undertaken – and this will invariably be an important starting point to help establish a baseline. With accurate risk profiles of both individual drivers behind the wheel and an entire mobile workforce, a picture of the status quo is painted. This can not only help in identifying problem trends,but also the root causes for these trends.
Relevant data can range from the number of penalty points accrued by drivers, obtained via electronic licence checks, insurance and accident management information to annual mileage and detailed information on driver behaviour provided by telematics technology.
Today’s telematics systems can score drivers based on key performance variables – including speeding, harsh steering or braking and gear shifting. With this information to hand, performance benchmarks can be set,targets defined, and improvements tracked over time.
Helpful data can also be generated from the vehicle,including diagnostic information that can provide vital warnings for developing mechanical issues. This information can help to build a picture of ongoing vehicle health, enabling companies to adopt a more proactive approach to maintenance.
Further sensible control measures should include checking insurance and MOT documents for non-company vehicles at the point of renewal, rather than a fixed annual date, to ensure they don’t lapse. Requiring employees to conduct vehicle safety checks at the start of each working day, regardless of whether vehicles are company or privately-owned, is also recommended under a best-practice approach.
Reviewing for sustained improvement
Such a compendium of data can be used to identify pain points and risk shortcomings, allowing measures to be put in place to address specific issues.
Driving performance issues can be identified by the HR team, for example, enabling drivers to be provided with support and targeted training to help them improve. All incidents –regardless of their seriousness – should go through a root cause analysis,allowing recommendations to be made on further action. Driver league tables can also be used to boost standards by introducing an element of healthy competition.
By using data in this way, quantifying outcomes and tracking long-term trends becomes a more straightforward process. Statistics that can quantify potential returns may include, among others, reductions in insurance premiums, maintenance costs and at-fault accidents.
Moreover, by getting such road risk management foundations stones and well-communicated control measures in place, organisations are more likely to see an overall cultural shift. The end game for HR departments is a culture that sets a best practice tone and fully embraces the core principles of safety, both informing and informed by the values of the organisation.
It should be remembered that continuous buy-in from the different employee tiers, from board level personnel and senior management to the shop floor, is paramount to reaching the ‘holy grail’ of sustained improvement.
With strong and clear leadership ensuring that appropriate messages are consistently communicated to staff however, all employees will be more likely to regard driving as a potentially risky activity that demands care and respect. They will also be more inclined to take the initiative themselves and become advocates for change.
1Driving at work: Managing work-related road safety, Health and Safety Executive