Good advice

DIA Insurance ADI News

In previous issues I have spoken about legislation and the occupational risks the driver can pose to the company. I also mentioned the subjectivity and objectivity of the judgements and the weighting applied to strategic risks.

Fleet work is very rewarding, but you do require a certain amount of subjectivity in your delivery of training. When you get an enquiry from a prospective client, it pays to listen to what they are asking for. In many cases, what they think they need is not what they actually need and this can work two ways.

I have had experience with organisations, both big and small. In one instance, one company thought that as long as someone went on the road, (no matter for how long) the company ‘satisfied requirements’. When asked what requirements they thought they satisfied, they didn’t know!

With any policy, you need to know what it is supposed to achieve, and sometimes a fleet trainer needs to advise, but only if you are conversant with the appropriate legislation. So, for those ADIs who wish to enter the fleet market, one piece of advice is research. You will look very silly if you cannot talk the same language as either the human resources or the transport department.

This is not so prevalent if you are working for a fleet training provider that engages you on a regular basis under contract, where all negotiations with the client have been completed. All you have to do is to carry out the client-centred learning, fill in reports and send an invoice, but those jobs don’t pay very well. The money comes when you find the work yourself independently and can advise.

The thing that has to be in the back of your mind all the time is, ‘Is the company responding “so far as is reasonably practicable” with the correct action to produce a suitable outcome to the problem they have?’

Reasonably practicable

‘So far as is reasonably practicable?’ This is not explained in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, but was defined by Lord Justice Asquith in 1949 in a court case involving the National Coal Board. I’ll try to explain it in English!

“A scale weighing a risk against the steps in terms of money, time or trouble needed to counter that risk. In deciding what steps are reasonably practicable to remove or reduce risk, employers must carefully assess the balance between the two (remove or reduce). Much rests on how big the risk is. This depends on the chance and result of it arising, for example, an accident happening and its seriousness. But this risk has to be weighed against other factors. Importantly, money, time or trouble must far outweigh – not balance – the risk.”

This means that if a task is very dangerous then it does not have to stop if it is integral to the overall production, but the workers would have to be trained and equipped to deal with that danger.

An example could be a fire station crew, where a fire and rescue service would have to tackle a major fire at an oil refinery as the first response appliance. That first response team can’t just wait for the fire to burn itself out because ‘it’s too dangerous’. The crew would have been trained for the first response and equipped because it was known to be a significant risk on their fireground. It’s not going to catch fire every day, but provisions have been put in place for the first response to assess and call in for the support, and then tackle the most important aspect of that job, which could be getting everyone accounted for.

So, the company earlier who told me that they didn’t know what they had to do to satisfy could have got caught out in two different ways. They could have not budgeted the correct amount to suit the risk or could have exaggerated the risk and spent too much resource on it! They didn’t know, and no company should be spending for the sake of uncertain gain.

Practicable in practice

So, we have to understand, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’. Let’s take the scenario of two companies in the same sector of identical size and similar business model.

Both have identified that driver training is required because they have both had high costs on vehicle damage and their respective motor insurance companies have said that if things don’t change, they will not underwrite the risk at renewal.

Both businesses are now in the same situation, but it is how that situation is handled that is integral to whether the costs to the business for the training starts to test the saying, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’.

From previous issues of this publication we have broached that the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 insists that an organisation is responsible for the safety of the employees, and there is also a reciprocal responsibility by the employees to the employer.

The systems emplaced should be suitable to meet the needs of the risk and then should be reviewed through the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. There’s that word, ‘management’. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the task has to be completed by the staff of the company, but could be by a contractor, who identifies what is required by weighing a risk against the steps in terms of money, time or trouble needed to counter that risk.

The company has to decide whether it wants to ‘remove’ or ‘reduce’ that risk, and the manager (contractor) to honour the task set. This is where the fleet trainer comes in by advising the best course of action to deliver at cost benefit and deciding the training strategy.

Scenario one: The trainer wades in with no experience of ‘reasonably practicable’ and insists that all drivers go on the road for a half-day session on a one-to-one basis.

Scenario two: The trainer goes into his business, asks questions of the reporting procedure, assesses the records of those that have had the incidents, and analyses the type of incident. The trainer finds the majority are slow speed manoeuvring collisions in limited space.

The scenario one trainer has decided that one size shoe fits all, and therefore has not approached the critical risk by finding out what the cost factors are, unlike the scenario two trainer.

So the company, under scenario one, is going to undergo much larger logistical challenges, as all drivers will need to go on the road, producing a large amount of non-productive mileage, integral vehicle shortage and logistical challenges, ‘down-time’ and disruption to productivity, in addition to the trainer’s costs. That is expensive.

The scenario two trainer will target the worst offenders and train them adequately to manoeuvre the vehicle, and perhaps set up an online module of road safety for the others to do at a time that suits the business. Scenario two is far cheaper and more effective as it targets the culprits and produces loyalty to the others who feel that they are being invested in.

In scenario one, everyone has been trained, but the holistic training has not met the objective and so it is quite evident that the company did not know what requirements they needed to satisfy.

In scenario two however, everyone has been trained and met the objectives with minimum disruption to the running of the business, but not everyone had to go on the road to achieve this. If the two companies went to court over a challenge, although scenario two cost less, what was done was ‘in so far as was reasonably practicable’. Remember – no company should be spending out for uncertain gain

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Source: ADI News

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