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'Attitudes to driving are a litmus test for overall attitudes to safety”

23 January 2013

Traditionally, driving at work has been seen as something that is done to get from job to job, rather than being an integral work activity.

Traditionally, driving at work has been seen as something that is done to get from job to job, rather than being an integral work activity. It is only in recent years that it has started to feature so highly on the agenda. In employing a dedicated road risk manager CE Electric is perhaps slightly ahead of the game on this issue, a reflection of the fact that safety is at the heart of CE'S culture and values.

My role is to manage the risk around driving at work and to implement sustainable solutions to manage those risks, reduce the number of vehicle accidents, raise awareness of occupational road risk throughout the company and, most importantly, ensure the workforce gets home safely each day.

In a high risk environment workers' attitudes to driving can be used as a litmus test for their overall attitude to safety. Some of the staff at CE Electric work on live high-voltage cables on a daily basis. This is a high-risk activity that is managed through a series of policies and well-practised procedures. What we don't want to see is a member of staff who demonstrates a poor attitude or behaviours towards safe driving which is then transferred to their primary role.

Aside from my experience of road-safety and accident prevention I feel my experience brings to the role the ability to work with, understand and empathise with people. As a relatively 'new kid in town', I need to be able to use this experience to gain credibility and trust from across the company.

We have a comprehensive Road Risk Plan that is reviewed against targets frequently. The plan began back in 2007 and the employment of a road risk manager was a part of that plan. We have raised awareness of occupational road risk through the publication of a Safe Driving Handbook, which has been distributed to every business driver within the company together with a copy of the Highway Code. The next stage, which we are about half-way through, is putting all business drivers through the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) Drive & Survive ELearner and Individual Driver Risk Assessment. That will help to inform which of our drivers require further training or development. We're also planning to introduce Driving Permits.

Driver development will be delivered through a series of workshops designed specifically to target identified areas of concern: reversing and slow speed manoeuvring; concentration skills and avoiding distractions; and travelling at speed and safe stopping. Additionally, we will continue to deliver, with the help of RoSPA on-road, practical assessments and training to those drivers that need it. The final piece of the jigsaw is to improve our processes for checking driving licences. We are presently exploring options to use driving licence information provided by DVLA to identify those drivers at risk.

Delivering the necessary training to our 800+ industrial drivers, some of whom don't have relevant computer skills or may be intimidated by computers, is going to be one of the challenges of the Road Risk Plan. Training these drivers in small groups and offering a paper based option is a solution.

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the minor changes in an individual's behaviour, attitude, skills or knowledge that will ultimately lead to the cultural shift that we are seeking. Changing the overall culture within an organisation as big as this will be a long, slow process but people are starting to talk positively about the scheme which is an important start.

The best piece of advice I have ever been given is don't rush into anything. Stand back, make an assessment and make sure you ask for whatever extra resources you need.

We all think we are the best and safest drivers on the road - it's human nature but sometimes the most minor error of judgement has led to an event that has had catastrophic life changes for the people involved or the families, friends and work colleagues close to them.

Chris Charlton - Road risk manager,CE Electric
Chris Charlton joined the North Yorkshire Police as a cadet at the age of 16 and worked predominantly as a traffic officer for 24 years until moving on to the position of inspector, & head of strategic roads policing. Chris retired after 32 years in May 2008 and is now employed as a dedicated road risk manager for CE Electric, making him one of a few people in the UK whose job is specifically to reduce road risk within an organisation.