background Screening could save a life?

October 24, 2014

By Sonya Skipp, General Manager at iFacts

I’m not guilty. Those are the words of the man who has been charged with three counts of culpable homicide and one of reckless and negligent driving. Isaac Maruding was applying for bail in the Magistrates Court, after he was arrested last week when the truck he was driving, was involved in what is being described as one of Johannesburg’s worst ever car crashes. The N12 East accident saw the 18-wheeler vehicle plough into no less than 15 vehicles, three people lost their lives, and 16 others were seriously injured.

It’s uncertain whether Isaac’s apology will be any comfort to those who lost loved-ones in that fatal crash. It has since emerged that the whole accident could have been avoided. Firstly, the truck’s brakes were found to be faulty. Secondly, the driver already has a shocking record of reckless and negligent driving.

Upon hearing the truck driver’s criminal history, the owners of the truck company, who had previously provided him with an attorney, chose to withdraw their legal representation. I would argue however, that the truck owners still hold a great deal of responsibility in this regard. Had a few simple background and criminal record checks been conducted prior to his employment, Isaac may never have been allowed to get behind the wheel of a vehicle again.

Last week, the South African Road Federation (SARF) released a statement saying that road safety must become an urgent priority in South Africa. According to SARF 43 people die on our roads each day. It added that 15% of road accidents are caused by road condition, 20% by vehicle condition and 70% through human behavioural factors.

If it’s true that human behaviour is the cause of most road accidents, then the fact remains that these incidents could be avoided. The importance of proficient employee checks and driver licence verifications cannot be overstated. In a case such as this, it can essentially mean the difference between life and death.

Background screening is becoming standard practice in many organisations around the world. The reality is that no organisation can afford to risk potentially fraudulent employee documentation. Researching employee history and stated capabilities is the only way to mitigate risk.

Would you knowingly employ someone convicted of drunken driving as your company driver? Or a convicted fraudster as the company’s accountant? The chances are highly unlikely. However, that’s not to say that you should exclude employees that have a criminal history, particularly if their prior convictions have nothing to do with the position that they are applying for. Each case should be looked at individually.

Employers do have a legal duty to make reasonable inquiries about who they hire and to provide a safe workplace for all. Conducting a criminal record check on potential employees you’re thinking about recruiting is just one way of doing that.

We don’t yet have all the facts, and we cannot say whether Isaac is guilty or not, but his employer could have done more to find out if he was suitable for that position in the first place. In this case and in like so many others it was a matter of life and death.

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