The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) cover the use of 4×4 vehicles in the workplace. This means that companies must ensure that their drivers receive ‘adequate information, instruction and training’ in their use.
Some operators are assumed to be trained by their employers as they have a driving licence, though this does not cover the specific risks associated with 4x4s, such as a high centre of gravity, equipment fitted to 4x4s such as selectable drive systems, differential locks and settings for different terrain. If operators are unaware of this equipment, the vehicle set-up can become a danger to operators and to third parties.
Many companies, in good faith, send their operators on what they assume to be a comprehensive 4×4 training course, often certificated, such as our own RoSPA accredited 4×4 familiarisation and Professional Off-Road Driving course. These courses are run at approved and risk assessed off-road sites, and give drivers an excellent level of knowledge of how to use the vehicles, and much of the fitted equipment in an off-road environment. Trainers will often recommend practices and equipment which is ideal when working in very rough environments during these courses, but many disregard the increased risks such techniques and equipment may pose when vehicles go back on the road.
As most vehicles spend the majority of their time on the road, this means that off-road courses are not enough.
Drivers must be trained in the ‘correct use of the equipment, the risks that may arise from its use and the precautions to take’ – this includes on-road occupational road risk.
Often, adaptations for off-road use recommended on these courses by well meaning instructors with limited knowledge of H&S and road safety, especially aggressive tyre choices, can drastically increase the risk of an incident on-road
The main risk to Health, Safety and Wellbeing is not off-road. The HSE database holds no record of a RIDDOR reportable 4×4 incident off-road. Off-road incidents do happen, but they usually just involve vehicle damage. When people are injured, it is invariably in the motorsport or recreational off-road arena. The main workplace risk to drivers of 4x4s, occupants and third parties is when 4x4s are used on-road.
4x4s are heavy, extending braking distances and reducing cornering ability. They have a high centre of gravity, increasing rollover risk. Commercially used 4x4s are often pick-up trucks, which in normal road use are two wheel drive, usually rear-wheel drive, and often have little or no weight above the drive wheels, which means that when accelerating, they lose grip and over-steer. The statistics are clear about the dangers posed to other vehicles and pedestrians, with the occupants of the smaller vehicle being up to 16 times more likely to die when in collision with a 4×4.
What many people don’t realise is that there is strong evidence to suggest that 4x4s are involved with more single vehicle accidents than other vehicles, and though UK statistics are yet to be properly analysed (STATS19 records station wagon SUVs such as the Land Rover Discovery with cars, and pick-ups with vans), evidence suggests that occupants of 4x4s could be at higher risk of injury and fatality than drivers of standard cars.
So when driving on the road is the most dangerous thing that most people do, there have to be adequate measures taken to reduce this risk. Off-road driver training alone is not the solution, and in our opinion does not fulfil the requirements of PUWER.
Train your drivers in the environment they will be working. If they spend any time on the road, they should be trained on the road.
Ensure your training provider includes on-road training during courses, and that the 4×4 trainers employed are properly qualified. For courses where on-road training is also included, Beyond Driving use Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency Approved Driving Instructors who are also accredited 4×4 trainers.
4×4 Familiarisation – PUWER Compliance
For more details, see our guide on on 4×4 legislation .