What’s the Law?
- There must be shelter. Even at outdoor work stations the employer must ‘provide’ shelter from the weather.
- In the rest area there must be seating which is ergonomically designed and assessed. (not a car seat)
- There must be ample room to walk around in the rest area.
- The employer must provide a means to heat food and eat that food in a comfortable environment.
- There has to be a toilet facility on site
- The employer must provide a source of potable water.
- The employer must provide heating
- There must be first aid equipment provided by the employer
- A suitable means of communication must be provided throughout the shift.
These are not just health and safety requirements they are basic human rights in some cases.
Does an employees car meet these requirements?
The answer to this from reading the above should be pretty obvious but to be sure I decided to contact some statutory bodies and ask the question. I got in touch with the Health and Safety Authority, the Workplace Relations Commission and the Motor Insurers Bureau. The first one is obvious but why the other two?
The WRC issue and regulate the security industry ERO. Section 2(5) of the ERO talks about staff welfare. It says ;
“Security firms will provide, or make arrangements with clients to provide, appropriate facilities and protection to ensure the safety, health and welfare of their workers at their place of employment. Such facilities/protection shall include: protective clothing, shelter, toilet, heat, light and access to canteens or means to heat/cook food, communication equipment and first aid. The employer shall
also ensure adequate monitoring procedures to ensure the safety and security of workers”.
If a company is not providing these then they are in breach of the ERO.
The contact with the insurers was based around the employees own liability. I wanted to ask the question about the status of an employees motor insurance if they are using their own vehicle as a welfare area.
The answers I received (or indeed didn’t receive) from each body are below.
Health and Safety Authority
I made a phone call to the workplace contact unit in the HSA they were very helpful. Their answer was that sitting in a car overnight would not meet the criteria in the regulations. They also said that while they cannot investigate this issue as whole if there were specific instances reported to them they would certainly form the basis of an investigation.
I followed this up with an email to the HSA. They replied within a week and referred me to document which relates to safety in the security industry. I’ve linked the document here. The HSA admit that it is outdated but it is still relevant. The blue box at the bottom of page two supports what they told me verbally in that all of the listed (above) welfare facilities have to be supplied by the employer and not the employee.
I contacted the WRC via email asking if the failure to supply welfare facilities would be a breach of the ERO and may result in compensation to workers. Thus far they have failed to supply an answer in writing so I called them. On the phone they could not comment on individual cases but said that any breach of the ERO can be reported for investigation. They did say though that the employer is ultimately responsible for providing welfare facilities to workers and if this isn’t happening them it would be a breach of the ERO.
The motor insurers bureau didn’t reply to my email either so I called a number of insurance companies directly. All of them without hesitation responded in the same way. Private motor insurance policies cover you and your vehicle for social and domestic use. it covers you to drive to and from work. It does not cover the vehicle or you for use as a work vehicle. If you are using your private vehicle for work purposes or purposes other than social or domestic use then your insurance will not cover any loss or damage caused to it.
Some companies said you can pay extra to get business use or occasional business use cover but this still wouldn’t cover using the vehicle as a welfare facility. This also applies to commercial policies for patrol vans. They are insured as a vehicle and not a welfare facility.
Stop the practice
It amazes me that this practice still exists. It should be stopped immediately. Not because its illegal (event though that’s a pretty good reason) but because its wrong and its immoral. It is a breach of an employers duty of care to their workers and its exploitation of the worker.
If there is any employer out there who disagrees with me on this point I’m happy to have a debate with you an any forum you wish but I really doubt I’ll get anybody to accept. The argument that a company can’t afford to put welfare facilities in place doesn’t count. If you can’t run a company safely for your staff then don’t run a company. Putting security operatives health and welfare at risk for a profit is indefensible.
If you are one of the people who is employed to sit in your own vehicle then read this article carefully. There are so many avenues you can go down to rectify the situation. Somebody is sitting in a nice warm office making a profit from your condition. Of course the excuse will be that if you don’t do it then somebody else will. That is correct as long as there are people willing to accept it then the practice will continue. Talk to your employer and ask for your welfare arrangements. If they refuse then you know exactly where you stand.
Like I said above these items are not luxuries. The fact that we have an industry where the provision of shelter and a toilet are a luxury tells a sad story. They are legal requirements and in some cases human rights. They are not overly expensive to provide. Many well ran companies out there have invested heavily in them and support their staff very well. The minority however continue to overshadow them. They can undercut the well run companies by not investing in staff safety. This holds the entire industry back as the poorly run companies sit back and make a profit from a person sitting in their own car and the good ones struggle to get business. How long it continues is up to us as an industry.