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?
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:

"Accident includes any undesired circumstances that give rise to ill health or injury, damage to property, plant, products or the environment, production losses or increased liabilities."
"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.

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Drivers Guide at the Scene of an RTA

Application of first aid should be carried out as follows:

Exchange details with other driver(s) of other vehicle(s) involved, which should include:

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:

Gather as much information as possible without being offensive or Intrusive, which should include:

Finally, it is imperative that you contact your office and give brief details of the accident including:

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:

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.

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Post-Accident Investigation to include:

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:

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.

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.

Accident Report Form Accident Report Form       Drivers Questionnaire Drivers Questionnaire

Further Reading
For further information regarding Accident Policy, procedures and guidance please visit the links below.

Road Safety ACT 2006 - Office of Public Sector InformationPDF logo
Statistical Analysis, Accident Causation and Policy Monitoring - Dept for Transport

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