Myths and Misunderstandings

Work-related driving crashes are the single biggest cause of traumatic workplace death in BC. Despite this, many employers don’t fully understand they have the same duty to ensure the safety of employees when they are behind the wheel as when they are in the office, on the shop floor or on a construction site. Many employers are particularly confused about their responsibilities when an employee is driving their own vehicle for work.

Below are a number of common myths and corresponding facts about employers and their responsibilities to employees who drive for work.

  • Myth: Employers do not have responsibilities for employee-owned or leased vehicles used for work.

    Fact:

    All employers – whether regulated federally under the Canada Labour Code or provincially under the Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulation - have responsibilities to ensure employee health and safety. Those responsibilities apply whenever employees are driving for work-related purposes, regardless of whether the employee is driving a company-owned or leased vehicle or one owned or leased by the employee.

    When an employee uses their vehicle for work, the employee and the employer both need to be clear on the terms of that use. Those terms should be stated in an agreement that includes requirements that the employee follow the company’s safe driving policies and procedures, and that the employer will confirm that by seeing vehicle inspection and maintenance records, and conducting periodic vehicle spot checks and ride-alongs with a supervisor.

  • Myth: All BC workplaces fall under the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.

    Fact:

    Most BC employers are governed by provincial occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation — the Workers Compensation Act (WCA) and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR). However, there are important exceptions.

    The Canada Labour Code applies to interprovincial and international industries such as:

    • railways, highway and air transport
    • pipelines and shipping services
    • banks, telecommunications systems
    • federal public service and Crown corporations
    • and others (learn more).

    For trucking, the key factor is whether your drivers cross provincial or international boundaries. If your drivers work only in British Columbia, the WCA and OHSR apply. If the work takes place in more than one province or territory, or if the work occurs in Canada and the United States, the Canada Labour Code applies.

Note: Information in the remainder of this section / document applies to workplaces governed by the WCA and OHSR.

  • Myth: Every employer must have a comprehensive road or fleet safety program.

    Fact:

    For employers governed by provincial OHS regulations, the OHSR lists criteria that determine whether a workplace needs a comprehensive OHS program, or a less formal program based mostly on regular monthly safety meetings and activities to correct unsafe conditions and practices. The number of employees and the nature of the work they do are the main determinants.

    Where a complete OHS program is required, that program needs to address the hazards employees encounter, their training needs and the safe work procedures necessary to ensure worker safety. And, if driving is part of the work they do, the program needs to include road safety.

    Also, every commercial carrier operating under the National Safety Code — regardless of size of their fleet —are required to maintain a safety plan that protects the safety of the carrier’s drivers and their vehicles.

  • Myth: When an employee uses their own vehicle for work-related purposes, the employee is solely responsible for vehicle and driving safety.

    Fact:

    Under the WCA and the OHSR, employees who drive as part of their work have road safety responsibilities. If they are driving a vehicle they own, the employee has obligations as owner and driver under the Motor Vehicle Act. Depending on what sort of vehicle it is and where it is being operated, that employee may also have obligations under other statutes. And, each employee needs to comply with company safe driving policies and procedures.

    However, in practical terms, the employee shares road safety responsibilities with their employer. As is required for company-owned vehicles, the employer must confirm employee-owned vehicles used for work are fit for purpose, properly inspected and maintained, and safely operated. They should be checking inspection and maintenance records, and taking steps to confirm the employee has necessary driving skills and behaviours.

  • Myth: Once an employer confirms an employee has the appropriate valid driver’s licence, the employer is free to include driving assignments in the employee’s work.

    Fact:

    Confirming that an employee has a valid driver’s licence is a great start. Checking that they have a clean driver’s abstract is a smart second step.

    It’s good practice to check employee driver’s licences to confirm the employee is legally entitled to drive. Review driver abstracts regularly watching for penalty points and fines for offences that may indicate high-risk driving behaviours.

    Before allowing an employee to drive for work — whether they use an assigned fleet vehicle or a personal vehicle — the employer must confirm the employee is qualified to undertake assigned driving. That should include an assessment of the employee’s driving skills and providing education, instruction, training and supervision, when appropriate.

  • Myth: Only commercial vehicles regulated under the National Safety Code need to be regularly inspected.

    Fact:

    The Motor Vehicle Act and its Regulations describe daily pre-trip inspection requirements for vehicles to which the National Safety Code (NSC) applies.

    However, BC’s OHSR also requires that drivers inspect their vehicles before the first trip of the day and at scheduled intervals thereafter (as required) to ensure its safe operation. Those requirements apply to all vehicles used for work.

  • Myth: If an employee is injured in a crash in their own vehicle when driving it for work, their ICBC insurance will cover damage and injury costs.

    Fact:

    ICBC is always responsible for property damage depending on ICBC insurance coverage. However, the injured employee may claim injury and wage loss benefits through either ICBC or WorkSafeBC depending on the crash scenario:

    • If other vehicles were involved in the crash and all drivers were workers, the injured employee must claim injury and wage loss benefits through WorkSafeBC.
    • If one or more of the other drivers was not a worker, and ICBC determines the injured employee was not at fault, the employee can choose to claim medical and wage loss benefits through either ICBC or WorkSafeBC.
    • If the crash did not involve another vehicle, the injured worker must claim medical and wage loss benefits through WorkSafeBC.
  • Myth: Investigating work-related crashes that occur on a public street or highway isn’t important because it is not a legal requirement.

    Fact:

    Provincial OHS legislation does not require that employers investigate serious, potentially serious or fatal workplace-related vehicle crashes that occur on a public street or highway. However, crash investigations are vitally important to employers. Amidst all the direct and indirect costs and consequences of a crash, a thorough investigation provides the employer with opportunities to learn what went wrong and what circumstances, conditions or actions contributed to or caused the crash. Investigating and learning from crash investigations is essential to reducing worker risk and the likelihood of future crashes.

  • Myth: Employers and employees have responsibilities under WCA, OHSR and company safety policies when commuting to work in their own vehicles.

    Fact:

    Employees driving from home to their usual place of employment in their own vehicle do not have responsibilities under the WCA or OHSR. Of course, they must follow the MVA, its associated regulations and road safety laws during their commute. If they are driving an assigned fleet car, those drivers must follow their company’s “personal use of vehicles” policy.

  • Myth: Road safety programs cost too much.

    Fact:

    Preventing crashes saves lives and avoids serious injuries, property damage, downtime and lost productivity. Fewer crashes translate to lower assessment fees and insurance rates. An effective road or fleet safety program shows that the employer:

    • Genuinely cares about employees and is taking all reasonable care to protect their well-being.
    • Is managing risk by controlling or eliminating road safety hazards.
    • Is committed to the success, growth and reputation of the business.

    Rather than an unnecessary cost, a road safety program that helps prevent crashes is a sound investment that will save the organization money over the long haul. Road safety is smart business.

  • Myth: Because a supervisor can’t watch or communicate with a driver all the time, supervisors don’t have responsibilities for employees while they are driving.

    Fact:

    While some organizations use technology to monitor driver activities and on-road behaviour, many supervisors can’t always see or communicate with the drivers they supervise. Even so, they have a duty to verify that employees are meeting legal and company requirements when they are on the road, just as they do when an employee is in a warehouse or on a construction site.

    This can include periodic driving assessments, spot checks and ride-alongs, reviewing driving abstracts regularly, safety discussions and supplementary training if necessary.

  • Myth: Motor vehicle crashes aren’t an issue in my company because we haven’t ever had any serious crashes, injuries or deaths.

    Fact:

    Just because motor vehicle crashes may not have been an issue for your organization in the past, it doesn’t mean that they don’t pose a significant risk to your organization.

    Don’t be lulled into complacency just because it hasn’t happened yet. All it takes is one serious crash to destroy your hard-earned reputation, and your bottom line. Instead, take a proactive approach to make sure it doesn’t ever happen.

  • Myth: Safety programs increase the burden on management.

    Fact:

    Creating, implementing and monitoring safety programs are required by law. They are necessary business functions. However, in meeting those obligations, many employers have found that effective safety programs pay for themselves many times over through fewer injuries, less downtime, and lower assessment fees and insurance premiums.

    Rather than a burden, those results translate into more efficient business processes and overall increased productivity. A strong safety program lets your employees know that you care about them; this can positively affect their engagement. It can help you attract and retain the best and the brightest employees, which can be a strong competitive advantage for your organization.

  • Myth: Changing driver and organizational behaviour is too difficult and too expensive.

    Fact:

    Changing behaviour in an organization or a society is a long-term proposition. It takes effort and commitment. However, the benefits can be enormous. Take seat belts and smoking. Today, nearly 40 years after seat belts became mandatory in BC, 97 per cent of us wear our seatbelts. It has become engrained in our driving culture, and it has saved thousands of lives. In the mid-1960’s, about 50 percent of Canadians smoked. Today about 20 per cent of Canadians smoke cigarettes. During the same period, the incidence of lung cancer has dropped significantly, again saving thousands of lives.

    Both are the results of legislative changes plus persistent enforcement and public education that have influenced personal and social values. However, the very real benefits of lives saved are strong evidence that such cultural change is well worth the investment.

    A road safety strategy that similarly includes effective policies and procedures, strong education and training programs and a supportive commitment to monitoring and continual improvement has been proven to change behaviour in many organizations. (link to case studies page) Why not yours?

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