Employers: When was the last time you checked to ensure that your employees have a valid driving licence or that your vehicles are adequately maintained?
In June 2016, Brocken and Fitzpatrick Limited (“the Company”) was fined a total of £10,900 for numerous offences relating to one incident of driving. The Company was also ordered to pay the prosecution costs of £1,500.
In terms of a summary of the main elements of the offences, a truck belonging to the company had been stopped in a road check, because it was leaning heavily to one side. The truck was carrying heavy roofing sheets and it appeared that they had been placed on uneven scaffolding boards, insufficiently secured and that they had shifted in transit. The truck was also overloaded by 900 kgs and so when the sheeting moved, it caused a significant weight imbalance which resulted in the truck leaning heavily to one side. Due to the tension placed on the retaining strap and the off side panel, the side panel was protruding out.
The brakes were faulty and in fact the brake warning light had been illuminated on the dashboard, indicating that the vehicle should not have been driven. Fluid was leaking from the steering components and the power assisted fluid reservoir was empty. The truck was also faulty in several other respects. In respect of the state of the vehicle, the offences were committed under the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Jersey) Law 1998 and the Road Traffic (Lighting) (Jersey) Order 1998.
The employee had a Portuguese valid driving licence but he had been in Jersey for approximately one year without changing it to a Jersey valid driving licence and so it was invalid. The C1 part of the driving licence had also expired.
It is clear that the Royal Court considered that the seriousness of this incident was exacerbated by the fact that the Company had a lengthy criminal record for committing numerous defective vehicle offences in the past. In fact the record was described as “appalling” by the Judge, who highlighted the fact that the Company had been fined £24,500 in 2014 for similar offences.
The Court expressed a view that the Crown ought to consider whether a prosecution should have been brought under the Health and Safety legislation, the issue being that the employer was, in essence, providing the employees with an unsafe system of work within which the employee was required to operate, thus putting himself (and the public) at risk.
There is no doubt that the Crown will take note of these comments and consider them again should a similar case arise in the future.
If you are reading this article as an employer, it is important that you know that the Court considered that managerial responsibility is key to ensuring that this sort of offence does not arise within your organisation.
The expectation is clearly on the employer to make the necessary checks on employees, to ensure they all have a valid driving licence and the vehicles they drive. This process can be assisted by making sure that you have policies in place to make sure that the employees carry out vehicle checks and report any faults to you, the employer, but that does not lessen the responsibility of management to ensure that the correct standards are being reached.
Christopher Austin | Head| Employment Law
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