Road crashes at work are an unfortunate and frequently tragic everyday occurrence. It has been estimated, for example, that in Australia, the EU and the USA, work-related motor vehicle crashes cause between a quarter and over a third of all work-related deaths43. Driving for work increases injury risk as more and longer journeys are taken, raising exposure to crash incidents. Improving occupational road safety, therefore, can contribute significantly to achieving national road injury prevention targets. The importance of a safe working environment is also recognised in SDG 8.8 and should be considered relevant to the UN’s other road safety related goals for Health and Cities.
For many businesses, driving for work purposes is the greatest risk faced by their employees. Both to meet their duty of care to their workforce and to promote their company’s productivity, there is a strong imperative to enhance occupational road safety. And there are powerful incentives for employers to improve their road safety performance. Organisations that have invested in road safety initiatives typically benefit from an improved safety culture, safety outcomes and lower operating costs. For example, cost savings include decreased insurance premiums, and less fuel use, vehicle maintenance, fleet damage and loss of staff availability due to crash related injuries.
To achieve these positive results requires leadership and the application of management systems that prioritise good safety performance. There are now a growing number of initiatives to assist organisations, both public and private, to improve their safety practices. In 2012, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) released a new standard ISO 39001 for “Road Traffic Safety Management”. The standard has been developed to assist in managing and improving road safety performance within an organisation. It provides a structured and holistic approach to promote the reduction of work related road safety risk. The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety has also developed a handbook of recommended best practices and a fleet safety benchmarking programme. To encourage fleet managers to choose safer vehicles, Global NCAP has developed purchasing guidelines that promote buying ‘five star’ rated models (see box 7). Training in occupational road safety is now available through courses such as the international diploma scheme run by the Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport (EASST) with Cranfield University. At a national level too there are good examples of collaborative partnerships to promote workplace safety such as National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP) in Australia and Driving for Better Business in the UK. Both help organisations to build and implement effective occupational road safety strategies.
NCAPs – Promoting Five Star Safety
New Car Assessment Programmes (NCAPs) help to create a market for safety by providing independent safety rating of motor vehicles. Scores from zero to five stars are awarded to car models in tests that measure performance in crash protection and avoidance. A zero star car typically would fail to pass the UN’s most important crash test standards whilst a five star result far exceeds minimum regulatory requirements.
The first NCAP was launched in 1978 by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. There are now nine NCAPs active in Australia, China, Europe, Japan, Latin America, South East Asia, South Korea and the US and they have proved to be highly effective in improving vehicle safety. In emerging markets in India, Latin America and South East Asia major manufacturers are still producing new cars that would fail UN standards and score zero stars in NCAP tests. Zero star cars often suffer from weak body shell strength, lack of airbags and non-fitment of the life-saving anti-skid device, electronic stability control (ESC).
Global NCAP (which serves as a platform for co-operation among NCAPs) has launched a #nozerostarcars campaign to try to eliminate production of such sub-standard cars and has proposed a road map of improved vehicle safety regulation to ‘democratise’ car safety worldwide by 202046. They are calling for universal application of the UN’s front, side and pedestrian crash tests and for mandatory ESC in all new passenger cars by 2020. This demand for standardisation of the most important vehicle safety standards has been endorsed by both the 2nd Global High level Conference on Road Safety and the UN General Assembly. To promote workplace safety, Global NCAP recommends that fleet managers purchase NCAP rated five star models wherever possible but not less than 4 stars and never buy vehicles that fail the UN’s most important safety regulations.
These efforts to promote workplace road safety need to be encouraged globally by the application of relevant international standards such as the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Occupational Health and Safety Convention (P155) and Protocol which contains provisions relevant to road injury prevention. The ILO, especially in the context of SDG 8.8, can play an increasingly important role in workplace road safety, particularly through its ‘Decent Work Agenda’ and its flagship programme on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Global Action for Prevention44. In 2015, the ILO published a report on priority health & safety issues in the road transport sector which highlights a range of critical topics including requirements to address driver working time, training and licensing45.
All these matters lend themselves to appropriate legislative action and parliamentarians can play their part by reviewing the national workplace safety laws and procedures to ensure that they are increasingly aligned with recommended international best practice. This would be assisted if the UN could develop a set of guidelines that set out a framework of minimum regulatory standards for workplace safety.