By Stuart Snape, Managing Partner, Graham Coffey and Co. Solicitors
Injury Prevention Week is an annual national awareness event which aims to bring focus to preventable injuries, drawing on the lessons that can be learnt in order to strive for better safeguarding of all, be it at the workplace or in day-to-day life.
This year, this week of recognition runs between the 27th of June and the 1st of July, and brings attention to a growing source of legal discussion – e-scooters. In light of recent government communications, particularly on changing road law legislation outlined in the recent Queen’s Speech, the need to address the safeguarding of e-scooters, and what this means for businesses, has never been more important.
New legislation introduces e-scooters to public roads
Current road laws in the UK state that riding a privately-owned e-scooter on public land is illegal, limiting it to private land only. However, the rise in popularity of this transport mode has added pressure on the government to respond, offering a low-emission alternative to motorised vehicles.
As such, plans for e-scooters mean that they will soon be legal to use on public roads, drastically changing the ecosystem of road users – who will have to quickly adapt their driving safeguarding practices and increase their awareness of the road and its new hazards.
The Transport Minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton announced in the House of Lords on 11th May 2022 that: “Safety is also at the heart of our plans to create a regulatory framework for lighter, smaller, zero-emission vehicles, sometimes known as e-scooters.”
While the safety of e-scooters is subject to investigation, it is not only the responsibility of riders to adopt good safety practices.
The need for businesses to adapt
Businesses in the UK will soon feel the effects of this new legislation. Organisations that already offer e-scooters as a rental service will certainly feel added interest in their products, but may have increased competition from companies who offer the chance to privately own these personal electric vehicles.
Furthermore, businesses that produce these vehicles must maintain compliance with the expected upcoming safety standards. Such safety parameters are likely to include bilateral indicators, adequate suspension, highly-responsive brakes, and a top speed estimated at 15.5mph.
There will be added pressure on businesses already in the e-scooter market to combat preconceived opinions on the lack of safety currently afforded by e-scooters, and to ensure that the riders can acquire all the tools necessary to commute safely.
Changing commuting habits
Businesses that do not trade e-scooters are likely to feel the legislation’s wake, too. There is likely to be an increase of city-based and local workers opting to swap their cars in favour of this cheaper, more ecological commuting option.
In turn, we may see businesses feeling pressure to offer competitive benefits, such as subsidised costs to purchasing an e-scooter, dedicated charging points and, if the government introduces it, grants to alleviate the cost of e-scooter insurance.
Adjusting for worker safety and needs
In light of Injury Prevention Week, the safety of such vulnerable vehicles cannot be understated. The UK saw 309 collisions involving one e-scooter in 2021 – a substantial growth from the 83 reported in 2020.
As such, individuals looking to make the switch to e-scooters for their work commute need to be aware of the risks they pose. In turn, employees will be required to recognise these risks and adapt, assessing what can be done to safeguard their employees. We may see businesses introducing policies to protect their workers, such as providing training and information on how to best use them safely.
This may start a causal chain of pressure on businesses to offer subsidies for those opting to switch their car or from public transport in favour of an e-scooter, with the aim of aligning with government plans to reduce the ecological impact of commuting daily.
The introduction of incentives and schemes, akin to the current Cycle to Work scheme, could find themselves widely offered by employers. In the wake of the pandemic, where many workers have found a hybrid model incorporating working from home, businesses will need to find competitive ways to accommodate their worker’s novel needs.