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Council / Council plans to bring in road risk policy

SHETLAND Islands Council is to introduce a safe driving policy for people who drive council, their own, or leased vehicles in the course of work for the local authority.

The policy will also put in black and white that workers will drive purely at their own discretion in “extreme weather” incidents and will be supported by line managers.

According to a report by SIC human resources executive manager Denise Bell “driving for work is one of the highest risk activities that employees carry out”, with estimates that more than a quarter of all road traffic incidents involve somebody who is driving as part of their work.

Council workers will in future have to be properly insured, and hold a full driving licence even in areas that is not legally required. Staff will also be required to stop using vehicles that are not roadworthy until they are repaired – something that is already a legal requirement.

Two references will also be required for recruitment to posts where people might have to drive – a policy that has been framed in light of the 2014 George Square bin lorry tragedy.

These are among a host of awareness, assessment and training recommendations contained in the Management of Occupational Road Risk Policy thatwas considered by the committee on Monday.

Policy and resources committee chairman Steven Coutts said that there should be no pressure on staff members driving in “extreme weather conditions” and that sometimes managers could have a more “gung ho” approach to health and safety issues.

South Mainland councillor George Smith said that it was a “sensible report and a sensible policy. He added that vehicles were like any other piece of equipment and that “there’s no reason why we should expect any member of staff to use a piece of equipment that’s not fit for purpose.”

He said that there was a “piece of positive work to be done” and that the SIC was a “responsible” local authority that would not pressurise staff to drive in bad weather or drive unfit vehicles.

North Mainland councillor Alastair Cooper said that his historic experience of the council fleet led him to question whether if staff refused to drive vehicles that had defects, there would be a backlog of repairs to be done and workers standing idle.

Health and safety manager Fiona Johnson told the committee that “robust procedures” were in place nowadays for managing fleet vehicles with staff obliged to report if there was anything wrong with a vehicle. This meant repairs could be tackled very quickly.

Cooper added that it was imperative staff are issued with their safety handbooks early enough to learn what is expected off them before the policy is introduced on 1 April.