Accidents and Accident Policy
It has been estimated that up to a third of all road traffic accidents involve somebody who is at work at the time. This may account for over 20 fatalities and 250 serious injuries every week. Some employers believe, incorrectly, that provided they comply with certain road traffic law requirements, eg company vehicles have a valid MOT certificate, and that drivers hold a valid licence, this is enough to ensure the safety of their employees, and others, when they are on the road. However, health and safety law applies to on-the-road work activities as to all work activities, and the risks should be effectively managed within a health and safety management system.
What follows is an overview of the factors that need to be considered when drafting an effective Accident Policy. These are not 'set in stone', and therefore it is for you to decide what should be included, and how best you deal with, record and expedite the data collated if a member of your staff is unfortunate in being involved in a Road Traffic Accident - RTA.
- What is defined as an accident?
- General Accident Policy Guide for Drivers involved at the scene
- Considerations in Writing a Company Accident Policy
- Further Reading
What is defined as an accident?
Defining a company vehicle accident is important. There is a great deal of debate about 'what is an accident' and whether accident is actually the correct word to use. Different groups and writers use a range of different words including accident, incident, crash and collision.
Boyle (1999) suggested that the difference between an accident and incident is that accidents have a specific outcome such as damage or an injury, whilst incidents may not. He states the HSE definitions:
"Incident includes all undesired circumstances and near hits that could cause accidents."
Bateman, King and Lewis (1996) define an accident as an undesired event that results in harm to people, damage to property or process loss. They acknowledge that, in everyday usage, some people perceive differences between the meaning of accidents and incidents, restricting the use of the word accident to an event involving an injury to a person. They advocate the use of accident in all situations including property damage, process loss, injury and, notably, near hits. This was supported by Howarth (1999), who classed all vehicle damage in non-normal circumstances as accident damage. Superficial scratches, which do not affect vehicle operation, are considered as wear and tear, defined by the BVRLA guide (1997) in terms of what damage is reasonable when a hire vehicle is returned to a supplier. Lawrence (1999) also suggested that recording all accidents, however small, is vital in allowing the company to have records for potential future claims. He gives several definitions of minor accidents in this context, including those falling under the insurance excess and accidents not involving major third party damage or third party personal injury.
General Accident Policy Guide for Drivers involved at the scene
It is important to note that as a drivers work role is mainly behind the wheel, he/she is most at risk and subsequently most likely to be involved in a Road Traffic Accident (RTA). Considering the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Bill will become law in April 2008, it is important that all driving staff are aware of what they should do if involved in an RTA.
The under mentioned bullet points are concise in what is required of a driver involved in an RTA, and although brief, they could be considered to be a drivers procedural practice at the scene of an RTA. This said, it is imperative that you also have reliable systems in place regarding Accident Policy and the recording of the same. This means not only issuing drivers with a format to record the information at the scene of the accident, but that there is a procedure in place to fully record everything relating to the accident via a company Accident Report Form.
All the information relating to an accident (including the drivers information) should be wrtitten down as soon as possible following the accident, failure to do so may result in important information being missed, or not 100% accurate. Last but not least, the driver involved must be interviewed as part of the policy process.
Drivers Guide at the Scene of an RTA
- DO NOT under any circumstances ADMIT LIABILIY.
- If requested by a police officer to make a statement, you should politely reply that the company has instructed you to consult their solicitor before making any statement. However, this does not apply to a WITNESS STATEMENT.
- Try to obtain the names and addresses of any witnesses to the accident.
- Any injuries, call the ambulance and police services.
Application of first aid should be carried out as follows:
- Administer Basic First Aid only, unless you are a qualified First Aider.
- Do Not move any injured person(s), you may kill them. ie, if a person is bleeding from the ear(s), it is likely they will have a fractured skull, moving them could put their life at risk.
- Use commonsense where any person(s) injured are concerned.
Exchange details with other driver(s) of other vehicle(s) involved, which should include:
- Name, address and owner of the vehicle(s)
- Registration number(s)
- Insurance details (if you have them)
- Your company details including point of contact
NB in the event of damage to property on or adjacent to the highway you MUST STOP and give details to any person having reasonable grounds for requiring them. If for any reason the information is not given at the time, it must be reported to the police within 24 hours. Also note other detail, such as:
- Note the name, number and station of the officer (Police or Fire) who is dealing with the incident.
- If you have to move any vehicle before the police arrive, mark the position(s) of any vehicle(s) involved on the road surface before moving them. Use a camera where possible to record the position(s) and the damage sustained.
- Make a note of the circumstances leading up to the accident.
Gather as much information as possible without being offensive or Intrusive, which should include:
- Weather conditions
- Road Conditions
- Time of accident
- Directions of Travel for those vehicles involved (including yours). It's helpful to denote North on any sketch, which is done by writing a large capital N with an arrow pointing in the relevant direction.
- Make sketches and/or take photographs where these would be useful
Finally, it is imperative that you contact your office and give brief details of the accident including:
- Damage to your vehicle and whether it's safe to continue using.
- Whether the load has moved and/or whether it's still secure.
- Most importantly, whether you are fit to continue working.
Considerations in Writing a Company Accident Policy
For the administrator tasked with collecting and recording accident data, it should be noted that the information collected can be split into 3 elements, which are:
Pre-Accident to include:
- Date, time.
- Purpose of journey and starting time.
- Environmental conditions (road surface, visibility).
- Exact location, such as street name and reference to a fixed point.
- Sketch of accident scene and, if possible, a photograph of the damage, accident, surrounding area and third party.
- Position and direction travelled of vehicles and other parties.
- Brief account of what happened, in clear language.
- Details of damage to vehicles and property.
- Cause of the accident.
- Driving too fast for the circumstances.
- Applying brakes too fiercely. With certain exceptions (for example unseen oil), skids are blameworthy.
- Failing to anticipate possible difficulties and danger.
- Failing to give proper and adequate signals of intentions.
- Failing to comply with the Highway Code.
It is imperative that procedures are in place so that drivers fully understand what's required of them, equally so proper training should
be in place and refresher training should always be considered - complacency can cost lives.
There is a role to play for the Health and Safety Officer of your company, to ensure that as well as procedures and training are covered, a total understanding of risks is accepted by all (drivers and Managers alike). This may require the need for risk assessments to be carried out and recorded to ensure that a full audit trail is evident.
Finally, it is imperative that all the driver workforce should be issued with either a company produced Drivers Handbook, or that a copy of one is obtained from either the Road Haulage Association (RHA) or the Freight Transport Association (FTA), for every driver.
Post-Accident Investigation to include:
- Establish how and why the accident occurred.
- Identify the corrective measures needed to prevent a similar accident.
- Be part of an overall corporate risk management package to minimise financial loss.
- Help assess liability issues for legal and insurance purposes.
It is imperative that accident investigation is carried out by the appointed manager. The information provided during the interview process with the driver in question must be consistent and accurate in its content. The investigation will not only provide your company with the necessary data to submit to its insurers, but will equally be as important to the company safety policy in general.
Post-Accident Risk Management Analysis to include:
- Accident reference number.
- Insurance claim number.
- Date of the accident.
- Time of the accident.
- Entry date.
- Accident type.
- Vehicle registration number.
- Vehicle type.
- Driver name.
- Driver gender.
- Driver age.
- Depot name.
- Blameworthy and non-blameworthy.
- Cost information.
Risk Management Analysis is in essence the compilation of a database of which the points above would form the basic structure thereof.
This information can be analysed to create a picture of possible weaknesses in such things as procedure and training, and the information
that is collected within the database can be of significant value to not only your company management and health and safety team, but
will equally be of value to your insurers.
The points outlined above, are only the basic structure, and much more could be added to create an effective database such as the further points listed below.
- Manager or supervisor name.
- Accident location.
- Driver status and length of time in the company.
- Driver shift details.
- Vehicle age.
- Trailer registration number.
- Trailer type.
- Trailer age.
- Tyre mileage (front, rear and trailers).
- Odometer reading at time of accident.
- Time or kilometres since last service.
- Time of shift (X hours or kilometres from start of shift).
- Hours driven by driver in past week.
- Loaded or unloaded.
- Weather conditions.
- Level (severity) of accident.
Whereas this information can be extremely useful, there is the real risk that going over-board with the number of entry points in
the database could lead to driver, managers (or both) not reporting some accidents/near misses because of the volume of additional
work that this would add to their workload.
All of the above is (in our view) a must if you are going to operate a fleet of vehicles and maintain the high standards of safety and compliance in your company operations. The degree to which you want to go with an efficient Acciddent Policy should be considered within the bounds of why it's required, but you should equally take into consideration the size of your operation.
We have included a basic Accident Report Form and Drivers Questionnaire for you to download and adopt for your own use.
For further information regarding Accident Policy, procedures and guidance please visit the links below.
Statistical Analysis, Accident Causation and Policy Monitoring - Dept for Transport