Case Study

Dow’s 30-year commitment to managing road safety sees accidents reduce to record low

Driving image

A 30-year commitment to managing occupational road risk is paying dividends for two of Britain’s most safety-conscious companies that ended 2005 with a record low number of vehicle accidents.

Last year, Dow, which comprises Dow Chemical, Dow AgroSciences and subsidiary companies, suffered just five low speed ‘moving motor vehicle accidents’ with drivers clocking up an average 25,000 miles annually.

Previously, eight accidents in 1995 was the lowest number suffered by the company, but Dow was then a significantly different business. Since then expansion through a series of acquisitions saw accident numbers climb to 21 in 2003.

Managing occupational road risk has been a fundamental feature of Dow’s health and safety policy for more than three decades. Although the chemical organisation, is currently moving away from company cars in favour of a cash allowance-based car programme its commitment to an annual incident target of ‘no more than three moving accidents per one million miles’ remains resolute.

Of the 206 employees entitled to a vehicle, almost 100 continue to drive a company car but they will join their colleagues in taking a cash allowance as the contract terms on their current leased vehicle expires.

UK fleet co-ordinator Julie Wicks, who champions the occupational road risk programme, said: ‘Employee health and safety is at the heart of the Dow’s business. Irrespective of whether employees continue to drive a company car or have moved to a cash allowance, they are subject to the same driver training programme.’

Our recent record shows the value of a comprehensive and co-ordinated risk management and driver training programme as the number of recorded incidents has dropped more than 400% in two years. That is a reflection of staff joining the company as a result of the acquisitions undergoing training

UK fleet co-ordinator Julie Wicks

Dow’s safety policy starts prior to a new employee driving on company business.  New starters are taken through the company car policy, their driving licence is checked and retained on file, a questionnaire completed by themselves and a second nominated driver, an online driver assessment is completed and then a ‘one to one’ defensive driver training course is undertaken annually, in conjunction with DriveTech (UK), the country’s leading provider of at-work driving risk management, driver assessment and driver training solutions.

Dow also provides on-road driver training for non-company car drivers and spouses of the company car driver/cash allowance driver. The frequency of training is every two years.

The annual training leads after typically four courses to employees taking the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents advanced driving test. However, drivers who achieve high marks from trainers can be fast-tracked. Approximately 150 drivers have so far passed the mandatory RoSPA test at gold, silver or bronze level.

Dow’s vehicle policy bans the driving of sports cars and convertibles on company business and also forbids the use of hot hatches, sub-1.3 litre vehicles and motorcycles.

All vehicles must be equipped with: ABS brakes, twin airbags, an alarm system, front and rear fog lights, front and rear headrests, a heated rear screen, a laminated glass front windscreen, seat belts and wing mirrors. The company also specifies that the minimum tread depth for tyres should be 4mm and all vehicles should have valid insurance and VED, as well as a valid MoT where applicable.

In addition, hands-free mobile telephone kits are supplied by Dow, which also provides an emergency roadside safety assistance kit including fire extinguisher, warning triangle, tyre tread depth gauge and first aid kit and various other safety items.

To ensure drivers - both company car and cash allowance - comply with Dow’s vehicle policy, they complete and sign a 40-point quarterly car risk assessment check which includes details on vehicle condition and confirmation of licence status and penalty points.

To help ensure cash allowance drivers are fully insured to drive on company business, Dow’s has arranged insurance through its own provider, Norwich Union.

In the event of an accident, drivers must report the incident to both the insurance company and Julie Wicks. They then complete Dow’s own accident form. Moving vehicle accidents deemed a ‘potentially serious accident’ also require a description of what happened and what the driver could have done to prevent the incident from happening. This is then communicated company-wide. DriveTech also assists Dow with accident administration.

Also contained within Dow’s comprehensive occupational road risk management strategy are frequent communications to all drivers. The latest bulletin highlighting winter driving issues features a number of articles, including reminders about tyre condition, lights and fluid levels, driving in ice and fog and advice on route planning. Also communicated are the reminders of the danger of drink driving and the morning after.  

In addition, every two years Dow, in partnership with DriveTech, holds a driver Safety Day event, which is designed to improve and refresh drivers’ skills and attitude to road safety and risk management.

Julie Wicks said: ‘Of Dow’s many concerns, none is more paramount than the health and safety of its people. We are constantly communicating the road safety message to our employees in many different ways. A company car policy, and wise choice of driver training company is key to the success of Dow’s safety investment.

‘A cost is not attributed to the price of safety. The company’s policy is best practice for all and because there is full management support we achieve excellent results.

‘Our long-running, all-embracing driver training programme has resulted in a significant reduction in accidents over the years with very few staff having time off work due to injuries. That has not only resulted in improved business efficiencies, but has also led to low insurance premiums, reduced vehicle maintenance costs and excellent staff morale.’

DriveTech (UK) managing director Jim Kirkwood said: ‘We will soon be entering our fifth year of working with Dow and their attitude to fleet safety and risk management overall is first class. We benchmark other companies against the company’s record.

‘Dow’s occupational road safety record and its commitment to caring for its staff is a policy which all companies, irrespective of the industry in which they operate, would do well to adopt