In May this year, a case came to Liverpool Crown Court involving a “white van man” who fell asleep at the wheel and ploughed into a man standing at a bus stop. Apparently, the driver had just worked his first ever night shift at a new company and was on his way home at 6.30am when tiredness got the better of him.
According to the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), it seems that ‘white van man’ – those who drive Light Goods Vehicles (LGVs) and often in a plain white livery – are involved in twice as many accidents as Heavy Goods Vehicles ( HGVs) and only half succeed in passing their MOT test.
In addition, three quarters of white vans are also found to be overloaded. Incidents involving heavy items falling from a vehicle when the back doors are opened can often be dismissed as “part of the job” yet are a cause of major non-fatal injuries and subsequent accident claims. HSE state that “Unsafe loads on vehicles injure more than 1,200 people a year”.
Research figures published by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries in July show that the frequency of third party personal injury claims by ‘white van man’ actually fell by 6 per cent in 2012 although still in excess of private car drivers at 4.5 per cent.
Between 2011 and 2012, there were more than 200 accidents involving moving vehicles (RIDDOR) and nearly 500 non-fatal injuries involving workplace vehicles, a quarter of which, were classified as major incidents (HSE).
While it might be expected that industries where vehicles are in heavy use can potentially be more of a serious risk than other sectors, the occupation with the highest number of vehicle injuries was elementary storage occupations (530 non-fatal injuries) followed by refuse and salvage and large goods vehicle drivers with around 90 non-fatal injuries or just 17 per cent.
While drivers of HGVs are likely to be given training and a Loading Plan for specific consignments, it appears that ‘white van man’ delivery drivers, under pressure to make as many drops and pick-ups as quickly as possible, may simply be running roughshod over the legal requirements.
According to the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the wellbeing of their staff members within the workplace.
This also means that risk assessment and accident prevention should also apply to examination of a van’s contents to determine safe vehicle load and ensuring the workforce is sufficiently trained and competent to carry out the necessary duties.