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For many people driving is an important part of their job. And although work related road accidents mostly happen on the public road, employers are also responsible for the safety of their employees outside the workplace. Employers can manage work-related road safety by assessing the risks on the road and implementing a road safety policy in the organisation.

This article will focus on the risks related to the driver, the vehicle and the journey that should be taken into account when doing a risk assessment and gives possible prevention strategies to remove or reduce these risks.

Driving for work: definition and statistics

According to the European Transport Safety Council ‘driving for work’ includes professional transport (delivering goods and people), driving whilst at work (for example sales people), workers on the road (for example people carrying out repairs) and commuting to work [1]. This article focuses on driving whilst at work and professional transport.

In 2005, in the EU, 39% of all fatal accidents at work were road traffic accidents. However, some estimates suggest a higher figure. For example, an EU-OSHA report states: "If both crashes while driving for work and commuting crashes are considered, it is estimated that in Europe six out of ten work accidents resulting in death are road crashes."[2]

The main types of vehicles involved in fatal accidents at work include light vehicles (42%), heavy good vehicles (28%) and two or three wheeled vehicles (6%) [1]. Research in Britain shows that car and light van drivers with high proportions of work-related mileage have a 53% greater risk of being injured in a car crash than other drivers of similar age, sex and annual mileage [3].

The employer’s responsibilities

Some employers believe, incorrectly, that if their staff has a valid driver’s licence and they comply with certain traffic law requirements, this is enough to ensure their employees’ safety when they are on the road for work. In fact, as for any other workplace risk, the law on health and safety at work also applies to on-the-road work activities. This means risks related to driving while at work should be effectively managed within a health and safety management system [4].

Legislation on safety and health at work

The European Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work [5] obliges employers to take appropriate preventive measures to make work safer and healthier. The Directive introduces as a key element the principles of risk assessment. Its main elements are (1) hazard identification, (2) worker participation, (3) introduction of adequate measures with the priority of eliminating risks at the source, (4) documentation, and (5) periodical re-assessment of workplace hazards.

Vehicles are also covered by the European Council Directive on the use of work equipment [6]. In this Directive, which has to be converted to national legislation in all member states, ‘work equipment’ is defined as any machine, apparatus, tool or installation used at work. This means that vehicles have to be:

  • fit for the purpose for which they are used;
  • designed for safety, by fitting them with safety systems such as electronic braking systems, overload indicators, speed-limiting devices, power steering, etc.
  • maintained in a safe and fit condition [7].

European legislation on road safety

Employers also have to comply with certain European and national traffic law requirements and see to it that their employees comply with these requirements. Examples of such requirements are the regular examinations for roadworthiness of the vehicles used on public highways and the fact that drivers should have a driving license.

In Europe the road transport sector is covered by various directives and regulations on driving and road transport, such as:

  • regulations on driving times, breaks and rest periods for drivers who transport goods or passengers by road [8];
  • a directive regulating the maximum authorized dimensions in national and international traffic and maximum authorized weights in international traffic [9];
  • a directive on driving licenses [10].

In addition to these legal requirements, insurance providers may introduce additional duties, both for those driving company owned vehicles and for those driving their own vehilce on company business. In the latter case this may include the requirement that the driver's own insurance includes such business use.

Benefits of managing road safety

Apart from complying to the European and national legislation, managing road safety on the company level has many benefits, for example

  • fewer days lost due to accidents;
  • reduced risk of work-related ill health;
  • reduced stress and improved morale;
  • fewer vehicles off the road for repair and reduced maintenance costs;
  • fewer missed orders;
  • less need for investigation and follow-up;
  • less pollution and more fuel-efficiency from vehicles;
  • less chance of key employees being banned from driving (e.g. as a result of drunk driving). [4][7]

Risk assessment on road safety

Just as any other risk at work, road safety should be assessed. The assessment of road traffic risks could consider the following:

  • make an inventory of all road journeys;
  • analyse road journeys (planning, organization, etc.);
  • identify workers exposed to road traffic risks;
  • analyse the purpose and characteristics of missions;
  • analyse accidents;
  • define an appropriate preventive strategy. [11]

A risk assessment should also consider whether the existing precautions are adequate and if it is perhaps possible to eliminate the hazard by, for instance, proposing alternatives for driving such as using public transport, or by organizing a telephone or videoconference instead of making people travel to a meeting.

This chapter will expand on the risks related to the journey, the vehicle and the driver and proposes some measures that can possibly reduce these risks.

Risks related to the journey

The journey in itself holds some risks. There could be unexpected traffic jams or dangerous crossings on the way, the weather conditions could make travelling by car more dangerous, the journey could be long and monotonous which increases the risk of fatigue or the time schedules could be too tight, which increases the risk of speeding.

Prevention strategies

In order to prevent these risks, employers and employees should plan the journey thoroughly. The following questions should be asked before each departure:

  • Is the trip necessary?
  • Is it possible to use other means of transport?
  • Can the journey be usefully combined with other road trips?

Travelling should be avoided, if possible. If trip is really necessary, the exposure of workers to occupational road risks should be reduced by:

  • taking account of appropriate routes;
  • incorporating realistic work schedules;
  • not putting drivers at risk from fatigue;
  • taking into account adverse weather conditions.

This means that every journey should be planned taking into account the road type, hazards (road works, accident ‘hot spots’), traffic densities (avoid peak traffic hours) and high-risk features such as schools or busy shopping centres [12]. The journey planning should also include stops (every two hours) so that drivers can have regular rest breaks.

In order to reduce the need for speeding or skipping rest breaks, employers could set indicative limits on maximum driving distances and allow staff to take overnight stops. Also ensure that journey scheduling allows sufficient time for drivers to take into account foreseeable weather and traffic conditions.

Directive 2002/15/EC[8] requires Member States of the EU to ensure that the working time of 'persons performing mobile transport activities' is recorded; and that employers shall be made responsible for this, keeping such records for at least two years.

New organisation of work

On the long haul these prevention measures may lead to the implementation of a new organisation of work, with new rules and work methods. These may be elaborated in cooperation with regular clients and/or suppliers and must enable:

  • better organisation of rounds (with emphasis on planning in order to better understand the time constraints specified by the client and organise rounds accordingly);
  • the integration of safety considerations in defining deadlines for delivery;
  • better coordination of tasks for the receipt or delivery of goods. [11]

Use of mobile phones

The use of mobile phones has been widespread and employees use them to keep in touch with their organisation and clients when they are on the road. Research has proven that the use of a handheld or hands free mobile phone while driving is a significant distraction and increases the risk for having an accident [13]. High mileage and company car drivers are more likely than others to use a mobile phone while driving [14]. Therefore the use of mobile phones should be considered as a serious risk and therefore managed within the driving for work policy. The policy on the use of mobile phone while driving should ensure the following:

  • employees do not make or receive calls whilst driving for work;
  • the golden rule ‘engine on, phone off’ is respected. If it is necessary to make a call, stop in a safe place that does not pose a hazard for other road users;
  • allow calls to go on ‘voicemail’;
  • plan journeys ahead to include stops that also provide opportunities to check messages and return calls [13].

Other staff members must also know about the policy and not call a colleague who is driving. Employers and managers should lead by example.

Risks related to the vehicle

Vehicles that are poorly maintained are an important contributor to road traffic accidents. Worn tires, windscreen wipers or brakes have a major impact on the safety of a vehicle. Apart from being in a safe and fit condition, vehicles must meet the purpose for which they are used. For instance, heavy loads should not be transported with a delivery van and vehicles that are used to transport people have to meet strict safety measures.

The appropriate vehicle

Company vehicles must be adapted to the type of travel and mission to be carried out (short trips, transport of persons, material or freight) [11]. The vehicle must be adapted according to the persons and or loads to be transported. When transporting goods there should be a separation between the passenger and the loads compartment. A company vehicle should also be equipped with passive safety systems, such as electronic braking systems, airbags, electronic speed controllers, etc. This is mostly not a problem for cars used by sales representatives, but remains a problem for light commercial vehicles [11]. Electronic devices like space satellite navigation system (gps), speed controllers, ABS, automatic pilot, might also help to drive more safely.


Steps to ensure vehicle maintenance should be planned and organized[15]. There should be clear procedures and arrangements about which everyone is informed.

Ensuring that vehicles are properly maintained involves:

  • identifying a person(s) responsible;
  • planning for the servicing of vehicles – service requirements should be defined by the

company. The frequency of controls should depend on the conditions under which vehicles are used;

  • monitoring the status of vehicles on a daily basis;
  • vehicle users reporting any problems during use, according to established procedures (e.g. report form, intervention request form);
  • further involving staff by getting them to do daily and weekly vehicle checks. Basic checks before any journey include: Are windows and mirrors clean? Are tires, brakes, steering and lights in good condition?;
  • instructing and training staff on maintenance arrangements and specific procedures for their vehicles;
  • insisting that vehicles owned by drivers themselves are also properly maintained and

regularly serviced [7].

Risks related to the driver

Even when the journey is well planned and the vehicle safe and fit for the purpose, accidents can happen. If the driver is not properly trained or too tired to drive he is at risk.

Employers should ensure that drivers are:

  • competent and capable of doing their work in a way that is safe for them and others;
  • properly trained;
  • sufficiently fit and healthy to drive safely and not put themselves and others at risk;
  • provided with information that will help them reduce risk;
  • provided with appropriate advice on driving posture. [16]


A driving licence is of course the first ‘proof’ of a drivers’ competence. However, it doesn’t necessarily say anything about the driver’s experience or the fact that he/she is a careful driver or not. Employers should do an assessment of the driving skills already during recruitment procedures: you could ask for references from the candidate’s previous occupation(s), candidate employees who will have to drive a lot could be tested for driving skills, etc. Also afterwards later on during the employment, the driver’s competence needs to be assessed regularly (e.g. every three years). If the driver has been involved in an accident or traffic violation, this should be investigated in order to determine whether the driver’s attitudes, skills or behaviour has contributed to the crash.

Before assessing drivers it is important to specify what standards of skill and expertise are required for the particular job. In order to ensure that these standards are met, companies could provide training.


Appropriate training should be based on the result of the driver assessment. Priority should be given to those drivers who have been identified as facing the highest risk (e.g. young/inexperienced drivers, people who will have to drive many kilometres, etc.). Training needs will depend on an individual's previous experience and the type of work they will be doing. A screening process should also be undertaken to determine which drivers need, apart from the compulsory safety and health training, to undergo specific and targeted training. This should be carried out during the induction process and also again during employment [17].

Training will probably need to cover:

  • Awareness training about:
    • Road traffic laws
    • Main causes of road crashes, risks
    • Potential consequences for the driver
    • The organisation’s policy on road safety
  • Driving techniques:
    • Defensive driving
    • For operating new/specific vehicles

Employers should keep training records for each employee. This can help to register who is competent to control which vehicle and will make it easier to safely allocate tasks and keep track of abilities.


A large number of driver related risk factors are related to health: stress, sleepiness, distraction, ageing staff, unhealthy diet, consumption of alcohol, illegal drugs or medicine, smoking, lack of exercise, etc. Sleepiness, for instance, is an important contributory factor in a large proportion of road crashes (10-20%) [18].

Employers should ensure that all employees are mentally and physically fit to drive. A minimum ‘fitness to drive’ standard must be set, and procedures should be in place to ensure that these standards are met [17]. It is the driver’s responsibility to refrain from driving if he is not fit for it. He should inform his employer when he/she is temporarily under medication or unfit to drive because of other reasons. The employer is advised to put up a Workplace Health Promotion (WHP) policy for his employees. This policy should also check the fitness of the drivers and make sure employees are fit to drive.

In order to reduce the risk of unfit drivers, employers could:

  • offer medical checks, encourage eyesight tests;
  • set limits on acceptable driving durations and distances;
  • propose alternatives for driving like videoconferencing of alternative transport modes;
  • ask drivers to take a short break every two hours and stress that sleepy drivers must stop in a safe place as soon as possible;
  • manage stress by adjusting journey schedules, appointments and routes so that drivers can stay within the law;
  • offer ‘overnight stays’ when on work trips;
  • inform and educate employees about the risk of driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs and medicine;
  • adopt a zero tolerance on alcohol and illicit drugs on the workplace and develop a written policy;
  • give advice or training on vehicle ergonomics on how to ensure that their driving position is correct.

Company policy

Once all risks have been assessed, it is up to the employer to write a company policy on the subject. This policy is a clearly written statement of intent setting out the organisations commitment in terms of work related road safety encompassing the basic aims of reducing road risk, collisions and injury and cmplying with the legislation. In the policy it should be made clear what the responsibilities are of both employees and management. Employees should sign the policy and a comprehension check should be carried out to ensure that the policy has been read and understood [17]. It is important that the implementation is monitored on a regular basis to ensure that the road safety policy is effective [4].

Specific risks for the transport sector

A risk assessment should be done for every employee (or group of employees) who drives for work regularly. In the transport sector, however, professional drivers like bus, taxi and truck drivers are exposed to even more and more specific risks. This chapter will give a brief overview of the main risks and some recommendations to manage those risks.


Employees in the transport sector often work alone for most of the time. Lone work is proven to be a risk factor for violence and aggression [19]. Moreover, some groups in the transport sector like bus and taxi drivers are often in direct contact with clients. Taxi drivers have cash in the car and may drive through isolated and dangerous areas. Their clients may be drunk or under the influence of drugs.

Drivers who have an elevated risk to be exposed to violence should be trained on how to deal with aggressive clients. Taxi drivers should be allowed to refuse a job if they feel unsafe [20]. Technical devices like an on board alarm should make it possible to contact colleagues or emergency services quickly. Also in-vehicle cameras (and a sticker to inform clients that filming will take place) could prevent violence from clients.


Drivers who spend most of their time in the vehicle are almost always exposed to vibrations. These vibrations are more or less harmful depending on the type of vehicle, the average speed and how many hours are spent driving [21]. Vibrations can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and other physical problems (e.g. cardiovascular diseases, Raynaud’s syndrome).

It is important to provide for ergonomically designed driver’s seats that reduce whole body vibrations to a minimum. Vehicles and seats have to be maintained properly. It is also possible to avoid badly maintained roads by planning the journey well in advance.

Shift work/night work

Many drivers in the transport sector work long hours and often at night. This increases the risk of fatigue. Shift work is also a risk factor for unhealthy lifestyle that might lead to cardiovascular diseases.

Drivers should at least comply with the European guidelines for driving times [22], breaks and rest periods. Employers should organize work in such a way that drivers have the time to take a break regularly. In some cases two alternating drivers might be a solution.

The Workplace Health Promotion programme should include the specific situation of drivers. Drivers should be informed about the risks of unhealthy food and a lack of physical exercise and alternatives could be proposed.

Manual handling of loads

Truck drivers do not only transport goods from one place to another, very often they also have to load and unload these goods. This highly physical activity might cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), back problems, etc. In addition, bus drivers or taxi drivers often have to carry out manual handling of loads, e.g. when they lift or hold luggage, when they help support people with a disability.

In order to prevent risks from the manual handling of loads, the employer should provide appropriate supporting devices such as trolleys. Training about the manual handling of loads provides drivers with correct postures to protect their backs properly. Taxis could be equipped with special lifts for loading wheelchairs.


[1] ETSC – European Transport Safety Council, Reducing Road Safety Risk Driving for Work and To Work in the EU. An Overview, 2010. Available at:

[2] EU-OSHA (2011) A review of accidents and injuries to road transport drivers. Available from:

[3] Safetynet, Work-related road safety, 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2012, from

[4] HSE – Health and Safety Executive, Driving at work. Managing work-related road safety, HSE Books, Suffolk, 2009. Available at:

[5] Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work. Available at:!celexapi!prod!CELEXnumdoc&numdoc=31989L0391&model=guichett&lg=en

[6] Council Directive 89/655/EEC of 30 November 1989 concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for the use of work equipment by workers at work (second individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16 (1) of Directive 89/391/EEC) Available at:

[7] EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, E-Facts 56 Maintenance and work-related road safety, 2011. Available at:

[8] Directive 2002/15/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2002 on the organisation of the working time of persons performing mobile road transport activities. Available at:

[9] Council Directive 96/53/EC of 25 July 1996 laying down for certain vehicles circulating within the Community the maximum authorised dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorised weights in international traffic, OJ L 235 of 17.09.1996.

[10] Regulation (EC) No 484/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 1 March 2002 amending Council Regulations (EEC) No 881/92 and (EEC) No 3118/93 for the purposes of establishing a driver attestation, OJ L 76, 19.03.2002.

[11] EC – European Commission, Causes and circumstances of accidents at work in the EU, 2008, Available at:

[12] ROSPA – The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Safer Journey Planner, 2011. Available at:

[13] ETSC – European Transport Safety Council, “PRAISE": Minimising In-vehicle distraction, 2010. Available at

[14] RoSPA – Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Driving for work: mobile phones, 2011. Available at:

[15] E-fact 56: Maintenance and work-related road safety. Available at:

[16] HSE – Health and Safety Executive, Work related road safety – Practical considerations (2012). Retrieved 2 April 2012, from:

[17] ETSC – European Transport Safety Council, Preventing Road Accidents and Injuries for the Safety of Employees. Work Related Road Safety Management Programmes, 2012, Available at:

[18] ETSC – European Transport Safety Council, PRAISE Report 3: Fitness to drive, 2010. Available at:

[19] EU-OSHA – European Agency for Health and Safety at Work, E-Facts 24 Violence at Work, 2002. Available at:

[20] EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Taxi driver’s safety and health. A European review of good practice guidelines, 2011. Available at:

[21] EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Taxi drivers - occupational risks, 2012. Retrieved 2 April, from:

[22] Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the harmonisation of certain social legislation relating to road transport and amending Council Regulations (EEC) No 3821/85 and (EC) No 2135/98 and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 3820/85. Retrieved 3 April 2015, from:

Lectures complémentaires

Karla Van den Broek

Prevent, Belgium

Richard Graveling