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Road safety at work: 3 steps towards reducing accidents

This article proposes a roadmap for:

  • understanding the risks and obligations associated with road safety at work,
  • capitalising on the regulatory requirements to structure your risk prevention policy
  • deploying an effective action plan within your company.

It also explains in detail how the latest technological innovations for fleet management and company CSR commitments help reduce accidents and protect your drivers.

Step 1: understanding the obligations and risks around road safety at work

More than 27 million workers in France are affected by road safety risks at work. Yet few companies treat them as significant occupational risks, and few are aware of their impacts.

In France, nearly 40% of fatal work accidents are road accidents

Serious consequences for employees and their employers

54,152 people were involved in work-related road accidents in 2020. This accounts for just 10% of accidents at work, but 40% of fatal work accidents[1].

In addition to the tragic consequences, accidents on the road also have a cost for businesses on several levels. The main impact is on Human Resources. Occupational road accidents are responsible for 4.3 million lost days of work each year, which is equivalent to 16,700 employees being off work for a whole year.

Finance and fleet managers are also affected. If an employee driving for work is held liable for an accident, the insurer pays the damages but this leads to an increase in premiums for the company. The costs related t0 damage, premature wear and tear and company vehicles being out of service also need to be taken into account.

Employer’s obligations and risks concerning road safety at work

Employers are responsible for taking every necessary measure to ensure the health and safety of their employees. If they fail in this obligation, they may be held criminally liable, generally for offences of homicide or accidental injury. The failure to maintain vehicles or the overloading of vehicles, for example, can be considered the fault of the employer in the event of an accident.

They may also be liable to civil proceedings if the driver, who is a company employee, is on a work assignment and causes injury to a third party or material damage. The employer is then liable for reparation for this injury or damage.

Employees may also claim gross negligence on the part of the employer (French Social Security Code) if they are in an occupational road accident and there are deficiencies in the employer’s risk prevention policy. The employee will then be compensated for the damage, as in any occupational accident.

Employee’s obligations

The employee must obey the highway code. They may be criminally liable if they commit an offence, or for any recklessness or negligence in the event of an accident causing injury.

Failure to meet a safety obligation in the course of their work may also lead to disciplinary action governed by the French Labour Code.

Companies with more than 50 employees must implement a mobility strategy

Step 2: laying the foundations of your risk prevention policy

Road safety at work requires a good risk prevention policy. SMEs are lagging behind in this area: fewer than one in five companies has taken action in this regard[2]. The regulations offer a structural framework for laying the first foundations.

Writing a DUER (Single Occupational Risks Assessment Document)

Writing this document, which is mandatory for all companies once they have their first employee, is a good starting point. It lists the risks that staff are exposed to. However, many SMEs forget about it, or fail to take account of road risks.

In the event of a claim, however, supplying an up-to-date DUER (it should be updated every year) can be seen as a point in a company’s favour, especially if the occupational road safety risks specific to the company have been identified and there is an associated action plan.

Particular attention should be given to occupational risk factors that increase the potential for accidents, e.g. working at night, multiple employers, the type of vehicle user, or long commuter journeys.

Conducting an occupational road safety audit

A good risk prevention policy should be based on identified risks. An audit allows you to characterise the road risks specific to your company and activity. The best practices to address these risks will differ for different sectors, sites, journeys, conditions and vehicle usage practices.

This audit can be carried out by your insurer. If the risk inventory is done internally, fleet management solutions can be used to support your appraisal. Because they are connected to your vehicles, they can feed back information about your vehicle fleet, journeys and driver behaviour. The result: better anticipation of risk factors.

This internal or external audit should produce recommendations specific to your company concerning monitoring, training and awareness.

Building your PDMe (employer mobility plan) to make road safety part of your CSR policy

Under the 2019 Mobility Orientation Law, organisations with more than 50 employees are now required to draw up a PDMe or to include ecomobility as part of their annual negotiations with their social partners (replacing the DUER).

As well as simplifying matters, creating a mobility plan provides an opportunity to focus both on road safety at work and the environment, to firm up the company’s commitments in this regard, and to promote a culture that encompasses both subjects. Awareness actions can include a mix of these two aspects.

The PDMe can also be an opportunity to look at a risk often underestimated by businesses: commuting from home to the workplace. Risk prevention during these journeys is not a legal obligation, but the majority of accidents happen during commuter journeys, when drivers are in ‘autopilot’ mode. Encouraging modal shifts, limiting employee travel, or providing company amenities (cycle parking, car sharing, etc.) are all effective prevention methods.

Step 3: launching your action plan on priority areas for road safety at work

The government suggests four management initiatives to prevent occupational risks on the road[3], summarised here in three points. The latest technological advances in fleet management mean that they can be further enhanced.

Eco-driving and safety training for drivers are the most effective measure to prevent road risk

Organising travel and communications

Adjust the way work is organised, provide the necessary time for journeys and define the most suitable mode of transport. Prioritise communications for when not driving and prohibit phone use at the wheel.

Better management of schedules and optimisation of journeys reduces journey times and external risk factors while driving (traffic jams, unsuitable driving hours, etc.).

Using the latest technological solutions for fleet management makes it easier to organise travel, via monitoring of vehicles and journeys (with or without GPS tracking) and online calendar management. It directly benefits your drivers, who can pre-save addresses for more fluid driving and access a history of their journeys to optimise their trips.

With regards to communication: using the phone and hands-free kits should be prohibited and calls should automatically go to voicemail when driving. Introducing the right to disconnect for employees (which was added to the French Labour Code in 2017) during work-related journeys could support this rule. Its use has grown significantly: 47% of organisations engaged in risk prevention say they implemented it in 2020.

Choosing the right vehicles and proper maintenance

Choose the right vehicle for the work to be performed, fit it out properly for carrying loads and tools, and maintain it correctly.

In this area, there is a fleet management application that can anticipate the necessary maintenance based on the latest inspections or the odometer reading.

With the most advanced solutions, it is possible to fine-tune your fleet’s activity via functions specific to the type of vehicle being used. Ocean Geobuild solutions include, for example, monitoring of construction machinery and equipment, and the sending of alerts in the event of anomalies or improper use to prevent the risks associated with their use.

 Remember to establish systematic driver’s licence checks on a regular basis, e.g. every three months.

Training everyone in the company

Company directors, managers, members of the company works committee, vehicle fleet managers and employees must be trained in best practices for risk prevention on the roads.

According to the 2021 Arval Mobility Observatory fleet barometer, training courses on eco-driving and safety are the most effective way of preventing risks on the road. Eco-driving aims to raise awareness of more efficient and safer driving. Ocean, in partnership with the ECF, therefore offers training courses on eco-prevention and accident and injury prevention.

The Ocean solution includes an eco-driving module in its platform, which reports the driving behaviour of those behind the wheel.

With the eco-driving module, you can see ‘sudden’ actions (acceleration, braking, etc.) by drivers and help them find ways to drive more smoothly and therefore more safely. OGF, a French funerals specialist, has fitted the 3,200 vehicles in its fleet with connected boxes. These send real-time information to drivers about ‘sudden’ actions (acceleration, braking, etc.) to help them drive more smoothly and therefore more safely.

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