Cars are workplaces too

Photo credit: post_man on Flickr

If you drive your own car at work, you’re part of what’s called “the grey fleet” and your car is considered part of your workplace. Sales people, home care workers, and house cleaners are in the grey fleet – and once upon a time so was I.

This made me especially curious about the cover article in the Sept/Oct 2010 issue of WorkSafe Magazine, which says vehicle collisions are second only to asbestos exposure as a cause of worker deaths.

The article made me think about my own past experience. In 1993, I took a job as a reporter for a community newspaper in a small town. It was winter when I started, and it was highly stressful trying to find my way around the outskirts of an unfamiliar town at night, in the dark, as the snow fell.

My employer gave me directions (which weren’t very helpful much of the time) and chuckled at the idea that I would probably get lost. I had only been driving for three years, and it seemed like there were fatal accidents in the region nearly every month. I knew this because it was part of my job to rush out and photograph damaged vehicles. These images of crashed cars and injured people made my night drives even scarier.

Looking back, I wish I had known more about my right to refuse unsafe work, which is covered in WorkSafeBC Regulation 3.12. And I wish my employer had been as proactive as South Fraser Home Support, which I read about in the WSM article. It quotes home support worker Phyllis Minks who describes how her employer took responsibility for the car as a workplace, not just transportation: “We were taught how to drive safely at night and in the wintertime and how to winterize our cars. We received practical training, too, in a car lot.”

Thankfully I got through it in one piece, unlike many other workers. Now I hope other people will stand up for themselves and refuse to drive their cars in treacherous conditions like I did. Reporters are known for their eagerness to chase a story – just like other professions face their own pressures to perform – but none of those stories were worth risking my life.

What about you?

Do you have any stories about driving your own car at work?


3 thoughts on “Cars are workplaces too

  1. Gayle

    I’m wondering how that’s changed given that you can no longer use your cellphone in your car? How does that work for realtors, other sales people, reporters, etc. I just don’t see how they could comply and still do their jobs given what they have been used to prior to the new change regarding hand held devices and driving (which I think is a good thing).

  2. Global Road Safety

    I couldn’t agree more with Sales Force Safety, employers must realise that when they ask a member of staff to get in a car they are asking them to operate a dangerous piece of work equipment and should be trained to do so, just like any other piece of equipment. When we pass our L test we are provicient at entry level, nothing more, we muddle along learning our trade without any further advice or guidance. What SHOULD happen is that we have a program of continual professional development and take training courses to improve our skill level, just as we do with other areas of our work.


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