What and where is the workplace?

Is the ‘workplace’ that you need to consider for your health and safety compliance that which you see every day, or is it a wider entity, the borders of which shift according to where your drivers go during their working hours? The latter is the right answer, if your staff work away from the premises as well as at them, as one business recently discovered.

But there is also a question relating to who the law sees as your ‘employees’, something with which those contracting-in agency workers need to get to grips, to operate legally.

Both questions could explain the ‘why?’ behind an incident in which an agency worker suffered life-changing injuries on day one of delivering for a multi-drop business.  Often, risks outside the boundaries of a depot cannot be physically seen by those responsible for health and safety and have to be envisaged, by creating ‘what if?’ scenarios that could occur and then doing everything possible to prevent them happening.

The problem of on-the-road health and safety is potentially huge. Nearly 500 people were killed whilst out driving as part of their job in 2017, but these deaths do not get reported under RIDDOR regulations, as would be the case with an incident on the business premises.  The HSE believes more than a quarter of all road accidents may involve somebody driving for work.

There can also be a ‘not my problem’ mentality, if employing an agency worker to cover a particular role.  This is not true.  Businesses must legally deliver the training required to handle a job and safeguard against all the risks that could present themselves.  It does not matter if it is day one or day 1001.  A worker should not be asked to take on a task until they understand safe processes and how to correctly handle equipment, goods, vehicles, machinery and anything else they encounter.

Assuming an agency worker is not your member of staff, and should have received training elsewhere, is no excuse in law.  If you ask them to do a job for you, you are responsible for their health and safety. You should not make assumptions about their prior training.  Paperwork needs checking, training records examining, questions raised.  Even language barriers are no excuse.

A £60,000 fine and over £7000 in legal costs was the business’s punishment when the agency worker mentioned above fell from a tail-lift.  He was trying to reach goods for delivery from behind kegs he had been unable to deliver at the previous drop, due to having the wrong address details. The costs to him were severe facial injuries and metal plates inserted into his skull, after the kegs fell on top of him.  This was an out-of-sight risk, out-of-mind, incurred by a worker whose previous experience was also assumed.  Don’t let this happen in your business.  Call us on 0113 244 8686 or email healthandsafety@gauntletgroup.com

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