Call to prioritise health and safety in work-related driving

Wednesday, 15 March, 2023

Call to prioritise health and safety in work-related driving

WorkSafe Victoria has urged Victorian employers, workers and the self-employed not to ignore the health and safety risks involved in work-related driving, after road incidents claimed the lives of 17 workers in Victoria last year — more than a quarter of the state’s total workplace fatality toll for 2022. Most of those killed were workers who spent a majority of their time on the road, such as truck and delivery drivers, but several workers also died in incidents while driving between workplaces or appointments. WorkSafe’s Executive Director of Health and Safety, Narelle Beer, said legal duties for employers and workers extended to any vehicles used for work, regardless of location or industry.

“Whenever a worker is on the road as part of their role, that vehicle is considered to be their workplace. This applies to any vehicle being used for the purpose of work, including personal vehicles, whether the worker is being paid an allowance or not. This means that employers must ensure that the vehicle being used is safe and without risks to health and that drivers are appropriately licensed and trained, while workers must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of other road users,” Beer said.

In 2022, at least 486 workers had a claim for compensation accepted after being injured due to a vehicle incident on the road in the course of their employment. In June 2022, transport company Peter Stoitse Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $490,000 following the 2018 death of a milk tanker driver in a rollover at Leongatha. The company had failed to ensure its drivers were properly trained and failed to ensure that its trucks were maintained in a safe mechanical condition. In December 2021, the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) was convicted and fined $475,000 following the death of a roadside assistance driver in a fatigue-related crash in 2018. Since the start of 2019, 64 workers have died as a result of road transport incidents in Victoria. The deaths of workers commuting to and from work are not included in the toll.

Beer said it is crucial for employers to have systems in place to ensure that vehicles are adequately maintained, drivers are appropriately trained, and risk factors are identified and properly managed. Beer added that speeding, drugs and alcohol, fatigue, and technology use or other in-vehicle distractions are all things that should be considered.

“It’s also important to plan ahead to avoid any adverse road conditions which can increase the risk of serious injury or death. Employers should consult with workers on appropriate road safety policies, procedures and instructions,” Beer said.

WorkSafe is taking a targeted, prevention-led approach that focuses on the highest-risk sectors and hazards that are causing road transport fatalities and serious injuries. WorkSafe is carrying out strategic workplace visits and joint enforcement activity with its regulatory partners, and working closely with other road safety stakeholders to enable and motivate employers across all industries to improve safety outcomes. Duty holders who fail to meet their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act could face prosecution and penalties including fines and possible jail terms.

To manage work-related vehicle risks, employers are advised to ensure safe systems of work are in place and that these are regularly monitored, reviewed and, if necessary, revised. Employers should ensure regular vehicle inspections, servicing and maintenance are carried out by competent persons in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Pre-operations checks must also be conducted daily on essential components such as brakes, steering, tyres (including pressure), indicators and suspension, with any defects to be rectified by competent persons. Employers must also ensure untrained, unlicensed or inexperienced people do not operate vehicles.

Employers can also manage work-related vehicle risks by implementing a system to ensure people are competent to conduct the work — this should include instructions, information about the work, mentoring and assessment, toolbox training and refresher training even for experienced employees. Appropriate rules and standards must be established for safe road use (including speed limits for travel and manoeuvres) taking into account any load factor of a vehicle. All safety information must be communicated to drivers and others to enable them to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

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