Glasgow refuse-truck crash inquiry revelation underlines importance of health disclosure clause in drivers' contracts, says lawyer

An solicitor has advised that a employee health disclosure clause in contracts could help hauliers avoid legal action over health-related incidents, after a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) heard that the driver of the Glasgow refuse vehicle that was involved in a fatal accident last year had failed to disclose a health issue on numerous occasions.

Rafia Ahmad from Backhouse Jones said an employer could not be held liable if an employee causes an accident as a result of a condition the employer did not know about.

However, Ahmad told Commercialmotor.com: “It all depends very much on the contract of employment. If there’s a clause that asks about medical conditions, which could prevent your ability to carry out your role, then you should disclose it.

"If you don’t disclose it there’s very little an employer can do, and indeed the employer has a valid defence – how can they be responsible if they were never told?”

But, Ahmad said if an employer learns an employee could be unwell and does nothing about it, this could have “potentially serious implications” for them.

“You’d be surprised how many employers are so focused on running a business that they just don’t give something like that due attention. They should follow it up."

Yesterday Sheriff Crown Court in Glasgow heard that Harry Clarke, who is believed to have passed out behind the wheel of his refuse truck (which then rolled out of control and killed six people), denied having had a blackout in the last five years on a form in 2011, though he is believed to have passed out while driving a passenger bus just the year before, in 2010.

He also claimed to have taken just seven days of sick leave in 2010, while the inquiry heard he had been away for more than three weeks.

The inquiry has previously heard that there was no mechanical fault involved in the refuse truck crash.

Photo: Press Association

Support shown for introduction of goods vehicles and engineering plant to O-licensing scheme

Plans to bring an estimated 40,000 goods vehicles and engineering plant into the O-licensing regime, as well as introduce the requirement for them to pass an annual roadworthiness test, by removing current exemptions have received support.?

The results of a DfT consultation that ran between December and March this year showed that 78% of 70 respondents supported the idea of closing the loophole that exempts 10 vehicle categories from an annual test.

Among those covered by the exemption are mobile cranes, recovery vehicles, certain types of engineering plant, and volumetric mixers.

Many respondents suggested that any vehicle based on an HGV chassis and used on a public road should be tested, saying this would improve road safety and remove ambiguity for both enforcement agencies and vehicle operators.

However, 57% believed that certain vehicles may need special testing arrangements.

DVSA expressed concerns about vehicles that are very wide or have low or high ground clearances, which may not be able to access some of its existing authorised testing facilities (ATFs).

The consultation also asked whether such vehicles should still be exempt from plating requirements, to which the DVSA said it did not believe it had the resource to issue plating documentation to the estimated 40,000 vehicles currently covered by the exemptions at the same time.

A separate consultation that ran during the same period, which asked whether such vehicles should also be bought into the O-licensing regime, identified concerns about operators of non-regulated vehicles competingin the same market as those that have to comply with the legislation.

Despite the majority of respondents supporting the idea, those operating in certain industries such as the recovery sector, wanted to keep the exemption they currently have from operator licensing.

The DfT said that intends to undertake further studies into the impact it would have on those in the recovery sector and for mobile crane operators before making a decision.

The DfT intends to decide if any changes will be made to current exemptions in late 2015.

It said there will be a separate consultation covering agricultural tractors, although no date has been set.?