Fatality Free Friday- Let's hope so
Fatality Free? Friday
Some of you may be aware that Friday the 26th May was Fatality Free Friday. This day is a promotional day to raise awareness and aspire to ONE day of the year where nobody dies as a result of an accident on Australian Roads. …ONE…DAY…of the entire year. Do you see where I’m going with this? So how do you think it went?
Six states and territories logged zero deaths, however, Queensland and Tasmania recorded two single-fatality road incidents. Why Friday? Fridays remain one of the deadliest on Australian roads, in fact in 2016 just 2 of the 53 Fridays were fatality free – Friday, 5 February and Friday, 24 June.
I’m bringing this up because road deaths continue to kill so many people every year (See Figure 1), and is one of the greatest causes of work-related deaths. In Australia in 2015, almost half (47%) of worker fatalities occurred within the Transport, postal, warehousing, Agriculture, forestry and fishing industry (Figure 2), and 27% of all work-related fatalities occurred as a result of a vehicle collision.
There has been significant work being undertaken by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to help manage the main identified transport risks being the load being carried, the time spent on the road leading to deadly fatigue, pressure being placed on operators to speed and vehicle condition. We’ve also seen numerous safety campaigns over the years targeting speed, drink driving, driving tired and road ‘black spots’.
What do you do when you’re an employer, and your people drive? Now I’m not referring to the transport operators, who have already seen the writing on the wall and are attempting to tow the line with NHVR. I’m referring to the numerous service-based industries around, that include driving as a regular part of their working day. They may not be effected by NHVR but they still have the same obligations as an employer to ensure the health and safety of people effected by their business or undertaking.
I have had several clients who have identified driving as a risk for their employees, then don’t know where to go from there. What should an employer do when their people drive as part of their role?
Think about it- courier drivers, sales people, painters, builders, most other tradespeople, air conditioning services, valuers, consultants, all drive as a core function of their role. So many employers I’ve worked with, have just simply stated, “What can you do?” in resignation of the little control they have once an employee leaves the gate.
So let’s have a think about this in terms of our old friend the ‘hierarchy of control’ (see ss35-36 in the Harmonised States WHS Regulation 2011). To reduce the risk of fatalaties in your work-related driving activities you might want to think of a range of the following:
Elimination – Can all or some of the driving tasks be eliminated?
This might not be as impossible as it seems. For so many tasks, you may be able to reduce the amount of time your people have to drive, through good planning. For example a painter may only have to drive once per day, if he has all of the supplies he needs for the job that day. But if the planning is poor he may have to leave the work site several times for supplies or accessing amenities. For the consultant, there may be some journeys that are actually unnecessary and be avoided through online video chat, reducing the consultants fatigue, and reducing costs for the client.
Substitution - Can the driving hazard be substituted with an alternative lesser hazard?
For some job roles you could reduce the driving risks to your employees by providing public transport options, providing professional drivers to do the driving, such as taxis, full-time drivers or having items delivered to site to reduce the number of drives. It's a trickier proposition where the service you are providing is driving or delivery services.
Of course the vehicle being driven, and the route being selected can be substituted for safer options.
Isolating / Engineering- Can the problem be engineered to isolate the hazard from the person, or minimise the harm that could arise?
So many things that can be done in this space. The safety equipment in motor vehicles is improving all the time. So consider what the greatest hazards are facing your staff and the way they work, to prioritise which piece of motor driving technology is most important to you. Is it- the number and location of air bags, reversing cameras, proximity sensors, speed limiters, cruise control, rest alarms, hands-free communications, load sensors and alarms, ABS braking, traction control, and the list goes on. The cost may be prohibitive to have every bell and whistle in your work vehicles, so consider what the greatest concerns really are with relation to the way you work, and consult with your staff to come up with the best solutions.
Administrative Controls- Can the risk be reduced through a range of administrative measures?
This is where most employers I've seen seem to land with the driving conundrum. There are of course some worthwhile initiatives to consider, and as always they should be considered by consulting with the workforce. Some thought will also need to be given as to how you plan to implement these measures and monitor them for effectiveness.
Some controls to consider include various Safe Driving Polices and Procedures:
Planning Driving activities to minimise the likelihood of:
Fatigue- Consider the number of hours people work before and after they drive, how far they drive, the times of day they drive and maximum driving hours. Consider whether you should allocate extra time for overnight stays, or pay overtime to allow personnel to take a stationary break.
Speeding - Plan work with plenty of time to get from one job to the next, avoid putting pressure on workers that may encourage them to speed, manage customer expectations for arrival times and work times. Planning your route can help to reduce frustration from delays and traffic.
Managing loads - A lot of trades and delivery drivers will need clear guidance on what load capacities are on their vehicles, and how to safely load and restrain goods to ensure they can't come off in transit, and it doesn't overload the vehicle. This includes making sure the dimensions don't overload the vehicle. I'm sure we've all been subjected to having to dodge something on the motorway, and it can be terrifying. So you don't want your workers to be the cause of sending somebody else of the road.
Dangerous Distractions - You may also want to consider things that may cause drivers to stop paying attention. Digital distractions are notorious for causing road incidents, so consider how and when they are to used. Also what goods are carried within the vehicle cabins and find ways to remove them from the cabin, so loose objects don't cause panic while driving, or a missile in the event of a collision.
Fitness for Work Policies can also help prevent the risk of people attending driving activities under the influence of drugs and alcohol and when unwell or already Fatigued. Remember you want your people to tell you when they are not safe to drive, so you can keep them safe. The matter of them being unfit to conduct their work duties is a HR issue, so make sure you consult with all of your business partners when developing such policies.
Plant and equipment (i.e. a car) should always be fit for purpose. SO when purchasing new vehicles you should really understand what work is being carried out with the vehicle, and by who, and plan to select vehicles for their fitness to meet your needs including health and safety needs, not just the cheapest vehicle. Vehicles will also have to be maintained in accordance with manufacturers instructions just like any other plant and equipment.
Regardless of what you choose to do to manage the health and safety risks of driving, Training and Competency should also be considered. As a minimum you should want to demonstrate that employees are at least legally allowed to drive the class of vehicle being provided for work activities. Whatever policies and procedures you instigate you should ensure your people understand the procedures and their intent if you wish to be able to enforce them, and they are familiar with the tools that they are being provided.
There are resources available to help you: