In adverse weather conditions, such as those currently being experienced in many parts of the country, employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees.
And, says the Automobile Association (AA), understanding this obligation before bad weather occurs is vital.
“Too often we hear stories of employees who go to great lengths, sometimes risking their own and other road users’ safety, to get to work exactly on time. Employers need to understand that bad weather has an impact on traffic and that this will compromise their employees’ ability to move around normally. Employers should adopt a far more flexible approach to time management in these conditions, understanding that the safety of their employees is more important than clocking in on time,” the AA says.
The Association says employees who take risks by not driving to the conditions of the road in wet weather, or who make rash decisions in traffic to ensure they get to work on time, are endangering the lives of everyone around them.
“The 20 or 25 minutes an employee is late for work is not worth a life,” the Association notes.
The Association also says employers must ensure the vehicles employees use, if they are corporate or company vehicles, are in a good working condition, and that all the required equipment needed to deal with inclement weather are in order.
Apart from being mechanically sound and serviced regularly, the vehicle’s tyres and lights must be in good shape, the brakes must be working correctly, the windscreen wipers (front and back) must clear the windscreen properly, and the defoggers should work optimally. It is important these items are checked before it is discovered they are not working when they are needed most. All required safety equipment such as warning triangles and fire extinguishers should also be checked and working.
“It’s not only cars which need this type of rigorous inspection either. Motorcycles which are used for deliveries (including all safety gear such as helmets and protective clothing), and bicycles, should also be checked. And, if there are employees who are walking to work, employers should investigate providing reflective gear to make them more visible to other road users,” the AA says.
Employers must ensure drivers (of any vehicles) are qualified to drive the vehicles, and that they are trained to deal with all traffic conditions. People who drive corporate vehicles should also be given refresher courses on different aspects of driving to keep them sharp on the road.
“Employers should also ask themselves if their fleet and their drivers are adequately covered in the event of a breakdown, both in terms of insurance coverage and roadside assistance,” the AA says.
Finally, the AA says, employers must reiterate safe driving habits to all employees, and not expect them to be working from their vehicles while driving. This includes not talking or texting on cellphones while driving, sending emails from other electronic devices, or setting their GPS while in motion.
“Employers have a great responsibility to the safety of their employees, and it is important, for the safety of road users across South Africa, that they take this responsibility seriously,” the AA concludes.