Road transport in Australia is a high risk industry. Between 2003–15, there were 583 work-related fatalities in the road transport industry, with 92% (535) occurring in the road freight transport industry (reference Safe Work Australia). Work-related road crashes generally incur a greater average time lost in worker absence than any other work injury claim.
It is often 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 on close proximity.
- 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).
- 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
- take regular breaks from driving to stretch, refresh and stay alert.
Employers and workers who drive vehicles must abide by the:
- Road Traffic Act and Regulations (enforced by the South Australia Police)
- Work Health and Safety Act and Regulations (administered by SafeWork SA).
If you drive heavy vehicles then you also must abide by the National Heavy Vehicle Law and Regulations.
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.
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.
There are a number of Codes of Practice that relate to transport:
- Hazardous Manual Tasks
- Managing Electrical Risks in the Workplace
- Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace
- Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces
- Managing the Risks of Plant in the Workplace
- Managing the Work Environment and Facilities
- Work Health and Safety Consultation, Co‑operation and Co‑ordination
- Road transport is an important network for our nation's economy and connects our local communities. Improving the productivity, safety and environmental performance of road movements is a priority of the National Transport Commission.
- The National Road Safety Partnership Program offers a collaborative network to support Australian businesses in developing a positive road safety culture.