The Driver Risk Management System that has been implemented by energy supplier, British Gas, has been benchmarked by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) after it cut road incidents by 30%.

IOSH, the health and safety body for professionals, is urging companies with large fleets to follow in the utility company’s tracks – reaping not only the health and wellbeing benefits, but also the financial rewards.

Nationally, it’s estimated that around 740 people are killed and over 8,000 seriously injured each year while working on the roads, or driving for work. With a fleet of 10,200 vans, 1,800 company cars and 1,950 private cars, British Gas wanted to reduce the number of incidents its employees were involved in.

IOSH head of campaigns, Caroline Patel, said, “British businesses that don’t take good health and safety seriously are missing a trick. Potentially, they are losing out on hundreds of thousands of pounds just because they haven’t got the right health and safety strategies in place.”

British Gas currently spends £6.7m a year on ‘bent metal’ – whether from damage to its own vehicles, or third party costs. It also forks out £14m a year on fuel costs. But thanks to a range of measures put in place to monitor and train employees in driving and maintenance skills, it has saved over £2m in repair costs to its own fleet alone. The company’s ‘own damage’ incident rate is at 0.283 – lower than the fleet industry average of 0.46.

Patel added, “This is an example of an organisation that has improved its competitive edge through improving the skills of its drivers. This culture change has solved avoidable problems, making a saving that for other businesses could be the difference between survival and failure.

“A number of companies, large and small, have also managed the same. We want to get the message through to all UK businesses that health and safety is a driver for growth – a key factor in this challenging economic climate.”

British Gas operations and safety director Jeff Greene added, “We wanted a way of identifying and managing the risks associated with driving at work, as we knew that having such a high number of employees does mean we’re prone to more road traffic accidents. Thanks to our road safety programme we’ve reduced the number of incidents, preventing injuries and cutting some huge costs across the business in the process.”

A five year plan was set out for British Gas’ overall driving safety culture and incident statistics. Measures included fuel monitoring, incident analysis and vehicle safety features such as speed limiters that would save on fuel, while encouraging safer driving. Among other ideas were electronic driver licence checks and pre-employment driver risk assessments. For employees using their own cars, licence, vehicle roadworthiness and insurance checks were done more frequently, and extra attention was paid to younger drivers.

The company has a system for rating its drivers red, amber or green according to the incidents they are involved in and the complaints received about their driving. Good records are rewarded and the ‘right to drive’ is removed for those that don’t meet the standard.

Greene added, “It’s an incentive for safer driving and it gives managers a great tool to track and analyse incidents. Having a framework that is easy to implement has changed the way we work, and it has certainly improved our employees’ attitudes to driving.”

IOSH highlighted British Gas’ strategy as part of its new campaign, Life Savings, which aims to set the record straight on occupational safety and health. Rather than being a burden on business, it pushes the message that good, proportionate health and safety is being used by forward thinking CEOs and managing directors as a driver for growth.

The chartered body is also calling on the government to showcase their good practice to demonstrate how managing health and safety can dramatically cut costs.