The news of a 17% increase in road fatalities in Ireland in 2013 - reversing the trend of recent years - is deeply disappointing. Not unexpectedly, there are already calls for more enforcement and fresh thinking. In our view, most employers simply do not see the legal and business need to manage driver safety proactively. While some have been very proactive, many simply react after a colleague is injured. Policy makers can do more to effectively communicate the need for all employers to take positive action or face the consequences in law and commercially. Of course, each of us as individuals and in our roles as employees or managers, can take some simple, proactive steps to minimise harm.
Part of the problem is lack of awareness of the scale of Driving for Work (DFW) fatalities. According to the HSA, 46 people lost their lives in workplace accidents in 2013 - "incidents involving vehicles at work accounted for 20 fatalities". Some of these vehicle incidents did not occur "on the road" (i.e. they happened on farms or in warehouses), but there is gross under-reporting of "workplace incidents" leading to a serious disconnect in the statistics.
The HSA and RSA also estimate that one in three fatalities on our roads involve someone Driving For Work (DFW). Road fatalities in 2013 increased by more 28 to 190 - reversing the declines seen in 2012 and 2011. The 2013 figure suggests the true, Driving for Work fatalities count is around 60 - this is THREE TIMES the "official" vehicle related fatalities statistic quoted. So why the variance?
Under Health & Safety Law, a vehicle used in the course of work is defined as a workplace, however many collisions are simply not reported to the HSA by employers and have not been identified as work-related by Gardaí during collision investigations.
While Ireland is not alone in such underreporting, from January 2014, Gardaí in Ireland will capture a range of additional information - including the purpose of journey - following serious crashes.
Until all DFW fatalities and serious injuries are measured, reported on, used to reinforce the need for compliance with duty of care and assist in targeted, follow-up inspections by the authorities, then we will in all likelihood continue to miss the opportunity to save lives and improve business efficiency.
Author: Ron McNamara