IF YOU run an SME, what should ‘Corporate Culpability’ mean to you? And should you be worried about it?
Throughout this series of articles, I’ve stressed the importance of taking seriously your corporate responsibilities towards ‘at work’ drivers.
The problem with exercising these responsibilities – your Duty of Care and compliance with the law – is often that the risks seem remote and intangible.
It’s easy to push the issues to the back of the queue when there are so many more pressing matters to attend to and the costs of driver assessments and training look so high.
But the other side of the problem is that if something does go wrong, and if one of your company car drivers is found to be culpable in a serious accident, the repercussions both for senior executives in the business, and for the business as a whole, can be very unpleasant indeed.
Health and Safety laws could lead to a prosecution, a court appearance, and a charge of Gross Negligence and you may still not be quite clear as to what you as an individual has done wrong!
In fact, compliance with Duty of Care legislation is now both much easier and cheaper than you may think. The first step is driver assessment, much of which can be done online these days.
Training must follow assessment
But having assessed your drivers, the next big trap to avoid is failing to act on the findings of the assessment.
When you think about it there is little point in getting your at work drivers assessed only to find out they are deemed to be at high risk and then failing to do anything about it! It’s almost worse than failing to do the assessments in the first place.
Remember that assessing a driver is not training a driver – they are quite separate and should not be confused.
So once your drivers have been assessed, you must act on the results by ensuring you take the next step – remedial or intervention training which targets the areas that the assessment has shown to be poor or high risk.
This is where companies can be culpable – if they don’t act on the findings of an assessment and the driver is subsequently found to be at fault in an accident. Remember that there are two issues; was the driver at fault? And was the business at fault in failing to prepare the driver for the risks he or she would face.
The more serious the accident, the more serious the consequences. If a fatality is involved, company directors could well be charged with corporate manslaughter.
Here’s another point worthy of mention. Even if the police, HSE or Crown Prosecution Service don’t get you, remember that more and more court cases are being brought through the Civil Court.
Your defence will still need to show Audits Trails, and demonstrate that you have exercised your Duty of Care and compliance with HSE responsibilities. Moreover, if the other party becomes aware that you cannot mount a strong defence, they are much more likely to proceed against you.
Your audit trail must prove that you displayed sound ‘Corporate Governance’. There’s a real possibility that if it does not, you may no longer have a business to run, as your insurance company may cast you adrift for the same reason you have been sued in court.
So when you have your drivers assessed, move straight onto intervention training without delay to ensure compliance.
As we found out in my last article, much of this can be done online and needn’t break the bank.