Topic of the Month – Understanding Employer Obligations

Understanding Employer Obligations

Expectations, commitments, requirements – as a business owner or supervisor, there are many obligations to satisfy.  As an employer you likely understand you have a duty to provide employees with a safe workplace, including when they are driving for work.  But what are you actually obliged to do? What performance standard applies?  Below is an approach to help you understand your road safety obligations.

To put legal obligations in context, it’s helpful to think about moral or ethical obligations. Ask yourself, “As a person responsible for the health and safety of others (your employees), what’s the right thing to do?”  Look at it from your employee’s perspective, and consider what you would hope your boss does to make sure you get home safe and sound.  Most of us would respond with something like, “I’m working hard to be safe each day; I hope my boss is doing everything they reasonably can.”

Most safety legislation, including the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, echoes that sentiment, and commonly capture it as due diligence.  What is due diligence?  Quite simply, due diligence is the care that a reasonable person exercises to avoid harm to other persons or their property; it’s the level of judgement, caution and activity that a person would reasonably be expected to apply to the particular circumstances.  For employers, due diligence means they take all reasonable precautions, under the particular circumstances, to prevent incidents, injuries and property damage. Click here for more on due diligence.

“All reasonable precautions” – that sounds like a pretty high standard.  On one hand, it is a high standard – we’re talking about safeguarding human life and limb! On the other hand, it’s surely not an impossible or unattainable standard.  Plenty of employers and supervisors have figured out what that looks like in their workplace and apply practices that they, and others in their industry, have found to work for them.  However, in the same sense that every competitive business environment requires employers to continuously reduce costs, gain efficiencies and enhance product quality and value, due diligence obliges employers to find any gaps in their system that incur safety risks, and make the adjustments necessary to fix them.

With the knowledge that due diligence is a cornerstone of every safety program, the next step is to determine how to “operationalize” that understanding, and decide where to focus your resources for optimal impact – should it be hazard assessments, driver training, vehicle inspections or journey management? Watch this space in the coming months as we explain these and other focus areas, and provide practical ideas you can apply to act on your road safety obligations.

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Topic of the Month – Understanding Employer Obligations