Dangerous, difficult and ‘sometimes appalling’: road management in spotlight
Working conditions in the traffic management industry are dangerous, difficult and “sometimes appalling”, according to the Workplace Rights Ombudsman’s Workplace Report on the Contract Traffic Control Industry Queensland.
Highlighting the high fatality rate and importance of traffic training courses, the report calls for among other things, all site supervisors and potential site supervisors are to be familiar with their safety obligations with respect to traffic control.
Separate fatality and injury statistics are not officially collected for the traffic management industry.
However, Australian Safety and Compensation Council (now Safe Work Australia) figures reveal 37 workers and seven bystanders were killed in work-related road and transport incidents notified to OHS authorities across Australia in 2007-08.
WorkSafe Victoria figures, meanwhile, reveal nine people were killed at roadside worksites in 2004 and 2005.
In such a dangerous industry, failure to follow strict work health and safety protocols for traffic management is tantamount to negligence, transport union the Australian Workers Union (Victoria) warns.
Union fact sheet
Collating the figures into a safety Fact Sheet for traffic management workers, the Australian Workers Union (Victoria) has for a number of years now been promoting a public campaign to improve work health and safety for traffic management workers, using the message ‘Slow Down @ Road Works – Speed Kills’.
The Fact Sheet notes a person hit by a car travelling at 50km/h has an 80% chance of being killed, but this drops to 20-30% if hit at 40 km/h. The risk of a crash causing casualties is doubled by every 5km/h travelled over the limit in a 60km/h zone (Transport Accident Commission).
The AWU says about 5,000 workers are employed by more than 100 traffic management companies in Victoria to control the flow of cars and other vehicles at road works or during special events. Most traffic management workers are casuals or labour hire employees for sub-contractors.
Despite the dangerous nature of the work, 25% of roadside worksites in Victoria were not compliant with safety standards when visited by WorkSafe Iinspectors during the Safety for Workers and Traffic (SWAT) Campaign in 2004-06, the Fact Sheet notes.
SWA draft code
Workplace injuries and fatalities are frequently linked with vehicles moving in and around workplaces, reversing, loading and unloading, Safe Work Australia’s warns.
Workers on foot are particularly at risk from moving vehicles. SWA says the safest way to protect pedestrians is to eliminate the hazard, which means removing the use of all vehicles including powered mobile plant or removing all pedestrians from traffic areas. This could be achieved by designing the layout of the workplace to eliminate the interaction of pedestrians and vehicles.
Where this is not reasonably practicable, the risks must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. This can be achieved by careful planning and by controlling vehicle operations and pedestrian movements at the workplace. This includes loading/unloading activities.
SWA’s draft guide for employers Traffic Management: Construction Work says the key issues to consider for managing traffic at a construction workplace include:
- keeping pedestrians and vehicles apart, including on site and when vehicles enter and exit the workplace
- minimising vehicle movements
- the risks of vehicles reversing
- visibility of vehicles and pedestrians
- traffic signs
- developing a traffic management plan.
A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that workers and other persons at the workplace are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking. This duty includes implementing measures to control the risks of persons being injured due to the movement of powered mobile plant at the workplace. A PCBU also has a duty to provide any information, training and instruction that is necessary to protect persons from risks to their health and safety.
A PCBU involved in carrying out high risk construction work must ensure that a safe work method statement (SWMS) is prepared before the work commences.
High risk construction work includes construction work that is carried out in an area at a workplace in which there is any movement of powered mobile plant.
The SWMS must identify the high risk construction work, specify associated hazards, describe measures to control risks and how these will be implemented. The PCBU must put in place arrangements for ensuring that high risk construction work is carried out in accordance with its SWMS.
A principal contractor for a construction project (where the value of the construction work is $250,000 or more) also has duties that include managing health and safety risks associated with traffic in the vicinity of the workplace that may be affected by construction work carried out in connection with the construction project. This includes preparing a WHS management plan for the workplace.
The WHS management plan sets out the arrangements to manage the risks associated with more complex construction projects, and in particular this relates to the interaction and co-ordination of a number of contractors and subcontractors.
Further information on the preparation of SWMS and WHS management plans is available in the Code of Practice: Construction Work.
Information instruction and training
Under the WHS laws a PCBU must provide workers and others at the workplace with adequate information, training and instruction. A PCBU must also ensure that construction induction training is provided to workers.
All workers need to know and understand the traffic rules, site safety policies and procedures for the workplace. Instructions should be provided to visitors before their visit, if possible.
External drivers should be aware of the site’s traffic safety procedures, any restrictions on vehicle size or type and where they are to make the delivery prior to attending the workplace.
Any site-specific health and safety rules and the arrangements for ensuring that all persons at the workplace are informed of these rules must be included in the WHS management plan.
Other persons at the workplace, so far as they’re able, must comply with any reasonable instruction that is given by the PCBU. They must also take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that they do not adversely affect the health and safety of others.
Keeping pedestrians and vehicles apart
The following actions will help keep pedestrians and vehicles apart both on site and when vehicles enter or exit the workplace:
- provide separate traffic routes for pedestrians and vehicles
- secure the areas where vehicles and powered mobile plant are being used, for example pedestrian barriers or traffic control barricades
- provide separate clearly marked pedestrian walkways that take a direct route where possible
- where walkways cross roadways, provide a clearly signed and lit crossing point where drivers and pedestrians can see each other clearly
- when exiting the site, make sure drivers driving out onto public roads can see both ways along the footway before they move on to it
- do not block walkways so that pedestrians have to step onto the vehicle route
- create ‘no go’ zones for powered mobile plant (e.g. pedestrian-only areas around tearooms, amenities and entrances)
- designate specific parking areas for workers’ and visitors’ vehicles outside the construction zone’.
Minimising vehicle movements
Good planning can help to minimise vehicle movement around a workplace.
To limit the number of vehicles at a workplace:
- provide vehicle parking for workers and visitors away from the work area
- control entry to the work area
- plan storage areas so that delivery vehicles do not have to cross the site.
Where multiple items of powered mobile plant are being operated around the workplace, a person with the necessary training or qualifications should direct the plant:
- when operating in close proximity to each other
- when reversing
- where persons are on the ground
- in other situations as indicated by a risk assessment.
The need for vehicles to reverse should be avoided where possible as reversing is a major cause of fatal accidents.
One-way systems can reduce the risk, especially in storage areas. A turning circle could be installed so that vehicles can turn without reversing.
Where it is necessary for vehicles to reverse:
- use reversing sensors, reversing cameras and mirrors and warning devices such as reversing alarms
- ensure drivers have another person to direct them before reversing if they cannot see clearly behind. The driver should maintain visual contact with the person directing them and signallers should wear high visibility clothing
- ensure workers and other people are familiar with reversing areas and reversing areas are clearly marked
- ensure operational plant movements are alerted to workers including swing radius, articulation points and overhead load movement.
To help reduce traffic risk on construction sites, AlertForce has released a new traffic training course for employers.
The Nationally Recognised Traffic Control Training NSW course reflects the latest nationally recognised competency qualification framework for traffic control training introduced by the NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) on July 1, 2015.
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