Contractors who consider themselves specialists within the scaffolding industry may have some surprises in store if they find themselves being questioned by either the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) or the police over matters relating to their vehicles and operator’s licence. Transport consultant Andy Miles, from AS Miles Consulting, considers some of the issues scaffolders may face.
Even though most scaffolding companies hold restricted operator’s licences, this does not restrict the impact of legislation relating to the safe and compliant operation of their vehicles.
The Occupational Road Safety Alliance’s last available figure for 2015 shows that 541 deaths occurred due to ‘driving for work’ collisions. This figure is over four times the number of people killed in accidents at work in the same period.
Transport Commissioners across the UK carry out around 1,000 Public Inquiries (PI) per year, which is less than 1 per cent of the total number of operator’s licences held by businesses. Out of the 1,000 PIs, the scaffolding industry appears all too often – and for all the wrong reasons.
In a recent survey of the last five weeks of Traffic Commissioner published data for PIs across the UK, 22 scaffolding companies were called to PI. Of those that have been seen in the same period, 11 have had regulatory action taken against them, including five that have had their licence revoked in full and a director disqualified for eight years; one that was refused an application due to previous poor standards; three that have had their licence curtailed (vehicles taken off them); and two that received formal warnings about future conduct.
What is sad about this is that ALL of it was totally avoidable, especially if owners and directors were as serious about their fleet and drivers as they are about Health & Safety and the industry standards around the scaffolding they erect.
Here are some simple actions to take:
- Make sure that drivers’ daily checks of vehicles are carried out and recorded.
- Check that drivers have the correct licence to drive and whether they have any points or a ban. The answer “Well, they drive to work every day” isn’t good enough and isn’t legal proof.
- Consider whether your vehicles get maintained according to the terms of your operator’s licence or whether they are maintained when it ‘feels like it needs a service’.
- Check your operator’s licence details on the Vehicle Operator Licensing (VOL) system.
- Check what your Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS) is.
- Check your drivers’ driving hours and whether there were any infringements.
- Review your company policy on the use of mobile devices in the company vehicles. Consider whether you then ring the drivers to give them instructions whilst they are driving.
- Be aware of whether home life is affecting your employees’ ability to perform their job.
A company operating one vehicle in the West Midlands was stopped by the DVSA in early 2016. The driver was subsequently charged relating to 10 specimen driving hours offences and fined £160 for each offence by the courts. The company was also fined £1,600 for each of the offences. The driver then faced a Driver Conduct hearing in front of the Traffic Commissioner and the company faced a PI where a number of conditions were imposed on the company and the driver lost his vocational driving entitlement for 28 days.
You could find yourself in this position if you are not keeping on top of your operator’s licence. If as a result of your vehicles’ and drivers’ actions there is a collision, especially where there is either a death or life-changing injuries are caused, you can expect a very in-depth and searching investigation into your company’s activities, including its policies and your adherence to them.
Employees, including drivers, look for leadership from managers, directors and owners. If the people in these positions do not give that leadership, they cannot complain if those employees do as they please. As we have covered in this article, so much can be rectified with simple systems that are used daily, weekly or monthly and keep you, your employees and the public at large, safe.
Andy Miles FCILT, MInstCPD
AS Miles Consulting
Midlands: 01455 389053 or London: 0208 183 firstname.lastname@example.org