Road transport in Australia is a high risk industry. Work-related road crashes generally incur a greater average time lost in worker absence than any other work injury claim.
It is easier to manage work health and safety (WHS) hazards and risks in the workplace where you can see the hazard or risk and control the environment more effectively than you can when workers are outside your workplace. Vehicles used for work purposes are considered a workplace so it is important for all PCBUs (employers) and workers to be aware of the hazards of driving vehicles and working around them. Employers should ensure they have systems and processes to eliminate the risks or minimise them as far as reasonably practicable.
Hazards that come into play when vehicles are in use involve:
- environmental factors (bad weather, poor road surfaces, limited visibility, sun position)
- fatigue (long hours, long distances)
- total awake time including travel to and from work
- driver distractions (eg mobile phones)
- time pressures (work scheduling and demands)
- drugs and alcohol (including prescription and non-prescription medication)
- vehicle maintenance (or ensuring the right vehicle for the right job)
- working around a vehicle where other vehicles are in close proximity
- entering/exiting the cab (fall from height)
- loading and unloading material or stock (fall from height)
- other road users (unpredictability).
- have appropriate road safety policies and procedures in place (including driver behaviour)
- inform and train workers on their policies and procedures and ensure they appropriately supervised and requirements enforced
- have vehicles regularly maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and are kept in good working condition
- allocate appropriate time for driving and associated tasks so as to minimise speed-related crashes
- where long distances or driving time is involved ensure that drivers take regular breaks
- have the most appropriate vehicle being used for the task and the worker has the appropriate drivers licence to operate it
- consider any vehicle engineering controls that may improve driver safety (eg collision warning systems, stability control, fatigue monitoring)
- have adequate controls and systems in place to minimise a fall from height
- conduct regular driver fitness medical examinations.
- check the vehicle over regularly and report any issues to their supervisor
- follow all reasonable instructions from their employer
- abide by any road traffic laws
- remove distractions such as a mobile phone
- report any vehicle related risks or near misses
- be aware of traffic and environmental conditions and drive accordingly
- plan their trip allowing adequate time for travel
- maintain 3 points of contact when entering/exiting the cab
- take regular breaks from driving to stretch, refresh and stay alert.
Loading and unloading materials
Where possible, eliminate the risk of a fall by staying on the ground during loading and unloading of materials by:
- using equipment to load and unload the material that is suitable for the job
- pre-configuring the load to suit the equipment
- pre-slinging the load where possible
- using load restraints that can be accessed from the ground or using aids such as lead ropes or a reach pole.
When working from the ground is not possible, there must be a safe means of accessing the elevated workplace, and if necessary, working on the tray or trailer. This could include:
- temporary work platforms
- work position systems, such as travel restraints that prevent a person from reaching a position where they could fall
- retractable ladders or steps with handrails.
Fall arrest systems should only be used when higher level controls are not practicable.
Safety alert: Falls from flatbed trucks - WorkSafe NSW
Livestock transport workers
Livestock transport workers are particularly at risk, due to falls during the loading, checking and unloading of stock. This health and safety risk can be reduced by the safe design, selection and maintenance of livestock crates and trailers, as well as the use of safe work methods.
Transport of dangerous goods
Detailed information about the transport of dangerous goods by road is available for businesses and workers involved in consigning, loading and transporting by land, dangerous goods in a placard load, retail distribution load or in small quantities.
A licence is required to transport explosives by road.
Employers and workers who drive vehicles must abide by the:
- Road Traffic Act and Regulations
- Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA)
- Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA)
If you drive heavy vehicles then you also must abide by the National Heavy Vehicle Law and Regulations.
There are also a number of Codes of Practice that relate to transport.