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Scaffolding company aims to raise industry's reputation as it joins Government-backed safe-driving campaign.

15 March 2010

A scaffolding company is aiming to improve the image of the industry in which it operates after being identified as one of Britain’s safest fleets by the Government-backed ‘Driving for Better Business’ campaign, which is delivered by RoadSafe.

Middlesbrough-based RES Teesdale Scaffold, which operates just 10 vehicles and employs 14 people, has become the smallest of 40 public and private sector organisations from across Britain to become a campaign ‘business champion’.

The campaign uses its ‘business champions’ to promote the financial, legal and moral reasons for organisations across the public and private sectors to invest in at-work driving safety.

With an estimated up to 200 road deaths and serious injuries a week resulting from crashes involving at work drivers, and more employees killed and seriously injured on Britain’s roads while driving on behalf of their employer than in any other work-related activity, the campaign aims to cut the carnage.

RES Teesdale Scaffold Sales Manager Andy Davison, son of the firm’s owner Keith, said: “Scaffolding firms are frequently regarded as having a poor reputation when it comes to the maintenance of vehicles and the driving habits of employees.

“That is a reputation that we are very keen to distance ourselves from, which is why in recent years we have been encouraging our employees to apply the same standards of safety and good practice to all work-related driving activities as they do in their scaffolding activities.”

One of the North East’s best-known rally drivers, Mr Davison added: “Promoting the correct image is vital to RES Teesdale Scaffold as it should be to all businesses. We are therefore delighted that our effort to promote occupational road risk management has been recognised by the campaign.

“All of our vehicles are liveried so we want to be seen as a promoter of good and considerate driving. If there is an incident other road users will soon see that it is one of our vehicles and we want to avoid that at all costs.”

The firm’s fleet includes four company cars, four HGVs and two LCVs. While vehicles have not been involved in any serious road crashes they are subjected to ‘dings, dents and scrapes’ as drivers collectively clock up around 125,000 miles a year and frequently manoeuvre in tight urban areas, yards and on building sites.

Mr Davison explained: “We have a good road safety record and therefore have not seen our insurance costs increase over the last three years, which in a rising market for premiums is excellent.

“However, while the incidents our vehicles are involved in maybe minor if we can eliminate them completely that will further contain vehicle repair costs and reduce vehicle downtime. Cutting downtime is important because if our vehicles are off the road they are not working and that means the business is not earning money.”

The company, which was established in 1992, included driving within its all-embracing health and safety focus several years ago. Now, RES Teesdale Scaffold has brought all its occupational road risk management activities together in a newly published Vehicle User Guide, which has been designed to remind drivers and other occupants of their responsibilities.

It addresses the key issues of:

  • Driver competence - driver licences are checked on recruitment and thereafter six-monthly. Drivers are also required to notify the company of any endorsements on their licences
  • Driver actions - including a complete ban on all mobile use while driving
  • Driver health
  • Driver training - all drivers are trained on the vehicles they are employed to drive
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Vehicle condition - all vehicles are inspected on a daily or weekly basis
  • Vehicle safety equipment
  • Loading/unloading vehicles
  • Goods in transit
  • Journey time, distance, route planning and driver and vehicle records
  • Weather conditions
  • Vehicle breakdown procedures
  • What to do in the event of an accident

Mr Davison said: “Scaffolding teams - usually consisting of a driver and two scaffold erectors one of whom may be an apprentice - are allocated vehicles on the basis of the steel scaffold load required to complete a job. While the scaffold erectors complete the loading of the vehicle, the driver is responsible for carrying out a check of the vehicle and record this in a Vehicle Defect Report book kept in each vehicle.

“The driver, at this stage, also plans their route, carries out a check list risk assessment and if necessary discusses the team’s journey with management.”

He added: “Employees are empowered to accept responsibility. They are able to make recommendations on how to improve efficiency and road safety on the basis of their daily experience and they are encouraged to do so.

“As a result there is an ethos of and desire for continuous improvement stemming from the constant review of current practices including health and safety.

“We keep a constant watch on the Vehicle Defect Report books because these reflect both the attention paid to maintenance by individual drivers and the history of individual driving performance. In such a small business, an employee’s aberration in driving is noticeably obvious to all members of the company.

“As a consequence there is considerable determination, pride and an element of competition between employees. This ensures that their performance standards remain high and that incidents are minimised.”

One recent development saw the introduction of hand rails on to wagons in response to an analysis of risk during handling/loading.

Additionally, the Investors in People accredited company also holds regular ‘Toolbox Talks’ as part of its continuous communication process with drivers to remind them of the importance of at-work driving safety.

Michael Parish, Programme Consultant for the ‘Driving for Better Business’ campaign, said: “RES Teesdale Scaffold is a small family run scaffold hire company that is determined to ensure it has a top notch business reputation, which extends to having a first class road safety record.

“When the campaign was launched the construction industry was one of the business sectors that was seen as a target for encouraging improvements in at-work driving safety.

“RES Teesdale Scaffold is setting an industry-leading example of what is possible in terms of reducing road risk through a focused safety strategy in which all employees are engaged.”

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