Practice vehicle safety is riding on you


Team members running work errands for your veterinary practice must be licensed and their cars must be in good shape. Otherwise, guess who's on the hook for liability?

When a team member drives a practice vehicle or a private vehicle on practice business, OSHA and your insurance company are paying attention. You should be, too.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. workers. If staff members drive on behalf of your practice, you must ensure a) the vehicle is roadworthy and b) the staff member is properly licensed. Here's a handy checklist to follow before sending an employee out on an errand or client visit:


Before setting your employees loose on the open road, make sure all your records are in order:

> Keep a copy of each staff member's driver's license in your files.

> Make sure there's a policy in your manual that requires employees to notify practice management if their driving privileges are altered or revoked.


Give company vehicles the once-over before driving:

> Make sure the vehicle's lights, signals, wipers, and horn work properly.

> Make sure the tires are inflated and have adequate tread remaining.

> Make sure the regular brakes and parking brake operate normally.

> If a load or vehicle design obstructs the driver's rear view, you need an audible alarm for backing up.

> Verify that the seat belts are in good repair.

> Make sure you have a policy requiring the use of seat belts and compliance with posted speed limits.


For anyone driving a nonstandard vehicle, such as a tractor, OSHA asks a little bit more:

> Verify that drivers have been properly trained. They must know the functions of all the vehicle's buttons, dials, lights, gauges, and levers. Keep records of this employee training.

> Equip vehicles such as tractors with a rollover protective structure (ROPS), even if the vehicle is used exclusively on level ground.

> Make sure that there's a working auto-type seat belt for the operator as well as a written hospital policy requiring its use.

> Check that the vehicle's brakes and brake lights work.

> Just like cars and trucks, the tractor needs an audible alarm for backing up if the rear view is obstructed.

And don't forget: Even if a team member uses his or her own vehicle for a practice errand, the practice is probably liable for any accidents—maybe even before the practice's own insurance carrier.

Phil Seibert, CVT, is an author, speaker, and consultant with SafetyVet in Calhoun, Tenn. Send questions or comments to

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