By Andrew Hobbs
I want you to wander down and take a look around your parking lot – and think about what you see.
It’s likely that not all of the vehicles you see there are owned by your company – potentially, very few are. But ask yourself, how many are used for work purposes – either occasionally or frequently?
The trend of companies reimbursing employees for using their own vehicles, rather than shelling out for taxis or the maintenance costs of company vehicles, increasingly is becoming the norm.
These vehicles are sometimes known as the ‘grey fleet’. But while they might be privately owned by your workers, if the vehicles are being used for work purposes that makes them a “workplace” under health and safety laws.
The harmonised Work Health and Safety Act 2011 defines a workplace as any place is where work is carried out for a business or undertaking, and can include a vehicle, a vessel, an aircraft or any other mobile structure.
As it is a workplace, any risks faced by a worker there are yours and your company’s – just the same as if they were working at your business address.
Employees in the NT, the ACT and Queensland are also able to claim for workers’ compensation if injured while on their way to work, with some conditions, while in other states they are not covered.
In NSW emergency services workers and volunteers, people injured in coal mines and others with a “real and substantial” between the job and the incident can also claim.
Have a look around the parking lot again. Would you be happy for all these vehicles to be company cars? Are you absolutely sure?
Okay. Turn around and head back into the office. There’s a bit of paperwork to consider.
No grey areas allowed
Remember, your grey fleet includes any private vehicle used for work purposes – cars, utes, motorbikes and even bicycles can fit under the banner.
A vehicle which is subject to salary packaging or a novated lease will also be a part of your grey fleet– as the employer is responsible for the vehicles under these agreements.
As a business-owner, you need to identify how to control, monitor and manage the drivers and their vehicles to mitigate risk.
View it as you would any other workplace activity by understanding any hazards associated with your grey fleet – what are the risks of hazards occurring, what potential harm could be caused and what options exist to minimise those risks?
For your grey fleet, this should mean applying the same safety standards and document-control processes that you apply to a standard company vehicle.
You should consider the question: “Is the organisation applying the same level of rigour to the grey fleet vehicle and, if not, why not?”
There should not be any privacy concerns about capturing information on grey fleet vehicles, because under the Privacy Act 1988, employers are entitled to make a request of this nature.
However, you should treat this information as part of an active grey fleet management process – and treat it with the same confidentiality as you would any other employee information – in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles.
Building your grey fleet policy
While safety policies will vary between industries, assessing driver competency and monitoring the driving behaviour of your employees is a must.
This includes checking the employee’s driving record and awareness of road safety – which could include checking their licence details, driving history and driving records, including any demerit points.
In your policy you might want to set out an accident or breakdown procedure and include clauses about the safe carriage of equipment, fatigue management, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, road rage incidents, and the use of electronic devices.
You should also consider whether an employee’s vehicle is fit-for-purpose. Is it appropriately registered, roadworthy, properly maintained and insured – though what standards you wish to apply here is entirely up to you.