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Workplace Transport Safety – How safe is the motor trade?Back

Alliance“A robust approach to workplace transport safety in the motor trade sector is essential. This will safeguard employees, customers and members of the public as well as protect a business from prosecution and reputational damage”. 

Michael D’Aguilar, Motor Trade Focal Point, Allianz Commercial

The potential risk that vehicle movements present can be seen in figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). These show there are more than 5,000 incidents involving workplace transport each year, with around 1% of these resulting in a fatality. Unfortunately the motor trade sector fares worse than many with an accident rate of 1.8 workplace transport related fatalities compared to an average of 0.6 per year.

To put this into context, the following are real examples of incidents that have happened within the auction sector. However, they could just as easily have occurred within any area of the motor trade.

Additional details can be sought from HSE website –

The illustrated incidents alone have the potential to cumulatively incur millions in claims costs for the insurance industry; spread across rehabilitation, support and compensation. Whilst it is not possible to
completely eradicate all risk, in each of these instances, a combination of properly assessing the working area and implementing appropriate safety measures would have reduced the severity of the outcomes, possibly avoiding
injury and the resultant impact to the business.

Incident Example 1

An employee was helping to jump-start a vehicle using a set of leads from one vehicle to another. As the vehicle was started, it lurched forward knocking down a fellow employee who sustained a number of fractures to both legs.

Preventative Measures and Risk Assessment Assess the area around the vehicle specifically ensuring that no one is in front of or to the rear of the vehicle.

Engines should be started ONLY by someone sitting in the driver’s seat, with the handbrake ON and vehicle in neutral. This should be checked prior to starting the engine.

Incident example 2

A vehicle entered the auction ring and careered out of control hitting two people and several other vehicles. One individual was air lifted to hospital with serious head injuries.

Preventative Measures and Risk Assessment:
Is the auction ring too close to the current viewing area for the public? When a vehicle enters the auction ring, the public should be situated at least 5-10 metres away from the vehicle entry point and behind a crash barrier. Once the vehicle is in the auction ring and stationary, the public can get closer to the vehicle(s) and start the bidding process. After bidding is finished, the public should be moved back to the safe distance and then the cars can leave the ring.

Is there sufficient signage warning the public that motor auctions involve the movement of vehicles which can be hazardous and/or dangerous? Ensure all reasonable steps are taken to protect the health and safety of all on site.

Incident Example 3

A driver fell from the top deck of a car transporter whilst loading vehicles. He suffered fractures to his back, arm and three ribs as well as puncturing his lung. There was no guard rail in place to prevent a fall.

Preventative Measures and Risk Assessment:

Check regularly that all guard rails are fitted where required and in full working order. Employees must be fully briefed on working at height before doing any work of this nature.

Managing Risk
The first step to managing risk is to ensure that workplace transport safety forms an integral part of the business culture and is included in the formal Health and Safety Policy. Employees should be made aware of the issue, with appropriate information, instruction and training provided, and managers nominated and empowered to take responsibility for developing and monitoring controls.

It is also important to ensure you have processes in place to record any incident or near miss involving vehicles. These should then be investigated and controls put in place to reduce risk.

Understanding historical incident patterns can provide a valuable insight when seeking to mitigate risk in a business.

Risk Assessment

A workplace transport risk assessment is essential. It is a legal requirement under Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, for every employer to make an assessment of the health and safety risks arising out of their work. The purpose of the assessment is to identify what needs to be done to control such risks.

The risk assessment will therefore need to cover all work activities that involve the movement of vehicles, such as arrival and departure, movement within the workplace, loading and unloading and vehicle maintenance work. It also needs to take into account the type of hazards that might be present, who may be at risk and what controls are already in place.

Risk Management System

Having completed the risk assessments a specific workplace transport risk management system can be designed. This should focus on, but is not limited to, following the four key areas of safety: site, vehicles, people and use.

Safe Site

A well-designed and maintained site makes transport accidents less likely. Routes should be as wide as possible, avoiding potential hazards such as overhead electric cables, pipes and sharp bends.

One-way systems can ensure that reversing is kept to a minimum. Barriers can be used to keep pedestrians and vehicles separate where possible.

Signage should be clear and visible. As highlighted in the incident examples signs stating vehicles should not be left in gear should be included.

Speed limits should be enforced and adequate lighting installed.

Consideration should be given to the use of cones/ temporary barriers to ensure people are warned and kept out of a particular area whilst work is being undertaken.

Safe Vehicle

Vehicles must be suitable for the purposes for which they are provided or used, and give good visibility for the user.

Drivers must be able to see clearly around the vehicle, be able to prevent it from moving when necessary and be made aware of any defects it may have before they attempt to move it.

Even if only being moved a short distance around the site, vehicle construction and serviceability should still be as good as if being used on a public road. Vehicles should be fitted with lights and a horn.

Safe People

Human error is the cause of many accidents. Mitigate the risk by ensuring employees are:

• Well trained.
• Fit to drive.
• Aware of the company’s policy relating to driving.
• Furthermore, make sure visitors stay within designated areas.

The company’s policy should include:

• Driving Licence checks.
• Reporting any health issues that may affect driving.
• Disciplinary procedures relating to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Reporting accident hazards.
• Vehicle check and fault reporting, recorded on the vehicle sheet.
• Vehicle records noting services history, intervals and repairs completed.
• Reporting near misses. This enables the business to learn from them and to put in place risk management procedures to prevent a recurrence that could have
a more serious outcome.

These procedures should be developed so that they apply to both employees and site visitors alike. Consideration should be taken to account for different levels of understanding about your workplace and routes to follow.

Safe Use

It is important to have procedures in place to ensure the safe operation of the vehicle. There should be rules around speed limits, who is allowed to drive vehicles (for example at an auction, customers may be banned from starting vehicles) and procedures to ensure that keys are kept secure.

Specific processes may need to be put in place for high performance or adapted vehicles.

Reversing can be a particularly risky area, causing around 25% of all workplace vehicle related fatalities. The best way to reduce this risk is to limit the need for reversing on site. Where this is not practical, reversing alarms, warning lights and rear view CCTV can help drivers to see behind the vehicle.


Any workplace that incorporates the use of vehicles needs careful consideration so that risks are understood and managed. With appropriate controls and procedures, the inherent hazards associated with vehicles can be considerably reduced. Therefore, we consider the following as a minimum requirement:

• Engines are started by someone sitting in the driver’s seat, legs inside, handbrake on, vehicle in neutral gear.
• Instances where a vehicle is left in gear are reported.
• Site speed limits are observed, the introduction of traffic calming measures may be necessary on larger sites.
• Customers are not allowed to drive vehicles around the premises. Where customers are delivering
or collecting vehicles, this should be confined to designated areas.
• Keys are kept secure when vehicles are not in use.
• Only fully trained, licensed, responsible employees are appointed to move and test vehicles, particularly
high-performance and adapted vehicles. Where the vehicle movement takes place in a restricted area, blind corner and/or reversing, this should be supervised by a competent person.
• Guard rails are periodically checked and fully utilised at all times.

Get it wrong and it can result in significant risks of injury for the people involved.

This article has been produced by Aston Scott Ltd and Allianz Insurance plc.

Posted by Sue Robinson on 12/02/2016