Should work-related RTAs be reportable to the Health and Safety Executive?

Historically the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has not enforced health and safety at work legislation in areas where safety is sufficiently protected by alternative law enforcement authorities.

This is the case in respect of road traffic safety, which is typically regulated by the police who have primary responsibility for enforcing road traffic legislation. Road traffic accidents resulting in injuries and fatalities are reported to the police and the Department for Transport.

When a road traffic incident occurs during a work activity, current HSE guidance indicates that the circumstances in which employers are required to report work-related road traffic incidents to the HSE (under the Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)), are relatively limited.

One consequence of this is that, subject to the police involving the HSE, it can limit the HSE’s understanding of driving related workplace accidents, restricting the HSE’s ability to investigate employers’ health and safety systems in respect of workplace transport activities.  

RIDDOR

RIDDOR places a legal requirement on employers and duty holders to report deaths, injuries, occupational diseases, and dangerous occurrences. This is to assist the HSE in understanding where and how workplace risks arise and whether there should be an investigation into compliance with health and safety laws.

However, HSE guidance on RIDDOR specifically restricts the reporting requirements in relation to injuries or deaths arising out of or in connection with moving vehicles on any highway or any other road to which the public has access. Each incident will need to be assessed on its own facts, but the guidance states that in general, road traffic accidents do not require reporting to the HSE under RIDDOR unless a person was injured or killed as a result of:

  • An accident involving a train
  • Exposure to a substance being conveyed by a vehicle
  • Being engaged in work connected with the loading or unloading onto or from a vehicle
  • Being engaged in, or injured by others engaged in, work on or alongside a road.

Due to these reporting restrictions, it follows that there are likely to be a number of work-related driving incidents resulting in injuries or death each year which the employer has no duty to report to the HSE.

Workplace fatal injuries statistics

In July 2019, the HSE published its Workplace fatal injuries in Great Britain report providing annual statistics on workplace fatal injuries reported to the HSE in 2018/2019.

The HSE recorded that 147 workers were killed in 2018/2019 and 92 members of the public were fatally injured due to work-related activities.

The data source is RIDDOR notifications and the report expressly identifies that fatal accidents involving workers travelling on a public highway and those travelling to and from work are excluded from the figures, on the basis that those incidents are investigated by the police. The figures also exclude members of the public who are killed in the course of another person’s work-related driving activities.

Call for change

Whilst the HSE’s publication reports that fatal injuries are “thankfully rare events”, there are concerns that the HSE’s published statistics for workplace injuries and fatalities are not an accurate reflection of the totality of work-related injuries suffered in Great Britain each year. Such concerns are due to the current limitations in the number and type of incidents that are reportable under RIDDOR.

Some organisations are calling for change so that a wider breadth of driving at work incidents are reportable to the HSE under the RIDDOR regime, including work-related road traffic injuries and fatalities occurring on public highways.

Comment

As above, some driving related workplace incidents are reportable under current law and guidance. The annual statistics on workplace fatal injuries will undoubtedly increase if the RIDDOR restriction regarding the reporting of injuries or deaths arising out of or in connection with moving vehicles on roads, is removed.

This would also place new and greater reporting burdens on employers following road traffic incidents involving their employees whilst at work or in connection with their work. Further, subject to the HSE’s response, there would likely be greater scrutiny on the systems and processes in place for work related driving.

If change does happen, organisations are advised to review their safety systems to ensure as far as possible that they do not fall foul of the law, or the reporting requirements. Businesses may also choose to reassess their own health and safety performance indicators, as often organisations rate their performance with reference to the frequency of RIDDOR reportable incidents rather than also factoring in incidents in which driving for work plays a part.