Corporate manslaughter

Life Fitness, a large commercial fitness equipment manufacturer, brought in a road safety officer to deliver a driver awareness talk to all its head office staff. This was the first step in the company fleet’s risk-assessment programme.

The company’s UK head office is in rural Cambridgeshire and it was concerned that all staff, not just company car drivers, should receive advice on safer driving. This led Lee Johns, health and safety officer, to take a closer look at Life Fitness’s fleet of 50 company car and van drivers.

The company’s fleet already had an enviable driving record, with most of the incidents recorded as minor, low-speed accidents. However, the driver training was still felt to be a valuable investment in order to keep it that way.

There was also another reason, as Johns explained: “I was aware of the Government’s plans to introduce a Corporate Manslaughter Bill and felt that by pre-empting any legislation I could keep our accident rate to a minimum and ensure that we were prepared.”

ATC Driver Training was one of four companies invited to present a suitable programme based on the fleet profile provided by Johns’s analysis.

The training was tailored by ATC to match the needs identified by the risk assessment. ATC trained just two people at a time, spending a whole day in the vehicle using roads the drivers would normally use every day.

ATC’s managing director, Kenny Roberts, said: “In order to keep disruption to Life Fitness’s operations to a minimum, training was delivered on a 2:1 ratio with one sales person and one van driver,” he said.

“As we had identified that the majority of incidents recorded were low speed, one of the main areas we focused on was spatial awareness and concentration.”

Analysis of driver feedback showed that the training was received positively, all drivers were receptive to the message and this in turn brought about the reduction in incident rates that Life Fitness has experienced.

At the end of the training a review meeting was held which enabled ATC to analyse the trainers’ assessment and drivers’ course questionnaires. Through this analysis, it has been able to forecast trends and causation factors to determine the content of the second phase of training that is recommend after 18-24 months.   

After the programme had been running for six months, Johns conducted an assessment of its results. The company’s already low accident rate had been further reduced, by an impressive 50 per cent, and the type of incidents recorded were less severe than in the same period the previous year.

“What we have ended up with is fewer accidents, less vehicle downtime and reduced insurance costs,” he said.

The initial programme started in September 2003 and is ongoing, with new staff being trained as they join the company. Life Fitness also has plans to extend the training to include company car drivers’ spouses, to further reduce the incident rate.

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