When working on a construction site, it is important to protect the safety of all your contractors and permanent workers. An employer's duty of care, as outlined in the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act, requires site managers and business owners to take all reasonable measures to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all their workers.

WorkCover NSW outlines that the term "workers" includes any person who performs work as an employee, trainee, volunteer or apprentice. Outworkers, students, contractors and subcontractors and any employees working for them are also included under this regulation.

However, when employers become primarily focused on the definition of workers, it is easy to forget that the WHS Act also requires site managers to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of all individuals on a worksite.

This means that if your construction work is being carried out in an area with a high volume of visitors or pedestrian thoroughfare, it will be your responsibility to ensure measures have been put in place to protect these people.

While a great number of construction sites across Australia will involve the typical fenced-off areas and self-contained locations, your contractors and employees could find themselves working on a site connected to a busy shopping area or other spaces with high volumes of pedestrian traffic. 

This is particularly likely when construction is being carried out in urban areas, such as renovations or expansions on apartment blocks, shopping centres or roadways.

Undertaking work in these locations can result in a number of risks for the general public, as they are untrained in how to safely traverse a construction site. It is therefore important that your employees follow safety best practices to protect themselves and the individuals around them.

Any personal injury or property damage caused by work undertaken on your worksite or by your workers could result in a very costly public liability claim or, in serious cases, fatalities.

Avoiding these incidents is a simple process if correct occupational health and safety standards are being followed. This includes ensuring preventative measures are in place to avoid dropped objects falling into pedestrian pathways, tools and equipment are only being operated by those with sufficient training and an adequate traffic management plan is in place.

Traffic management involves enlisting an employee to act as a traffic controller to ensure vehicles, pedestrians and other moving objects are following safe pathways through a worksite. State and federal regulations require the individual in charge of a traffic management plan to hold approved qualifications and undertake training.

This means that to enact a sufficient traffic management plan, it is important to ensure your employees are adequately trained in a state- and federal-approved traffic management and control training course.

Understand the risks to pedestrians

When a person is moving on foot through your site, they are at risk of encountering a number of significant hazards. Understanding these hazards is an important step in preventing an accident or injury from occurring.

Traffic hazards involving pedestrians on a construction site include drivers operating vehicles with restricted visibility, unsecured loads falling from vehicles, trailers unhitching, lack of fencing or protection between pedestrians and vehicles, and poorly designed pathways encouraging people to take shortcuts or step outside of their designated areas.

Additionally, a lack of space can be a significant risk when pedestrians and vehicles are required to share roads.

Accessibility must also be kept in mind when designing a traffic management plan. If an individual with limited mobility is required to climb stairs or use the same ramp as forklifts and other vehicles, it can put this person at a great risk of accident and injury.

Recognising and preventing these risks is a crucial part of any traffic management plan on your worksite, as it will help to protect you, your workers and the public from a serious workplace injury or even fatality.

What is involved in a traffic management plan?

Regardless of the type of work being carried out or the location of the site, a traffic management plan is crucial for any project that involves vehicles, workers and pedestrians sharing space.

A comprehensive traffic management plan needs to include a clear understanding of how to allocate thoroughfares and separate the different forms of traffic.

This can involve creating fenced-off pathways primarily for the use of pedestrians, but can also be as simple as giving a worker the responsibility of directing traffic and controlling when people can cross roadways and vehicle lanes.

If your construction work includes taking up a significant portion of a footpath or designated pedestrian path, you must ensure the individuals on foot are not being forced into a road while unprotected. If pedestrians are stepping into the vehicles lanes, providing cones, fences and signage to warn both the people on foot and those in the passing vehicles of the situation can help prevent accidents and injuries.

Additionally, providing areas clear of pedestrian traffic is an important onsite requirement for vehicles that may need to park, reverse and manoeuvre in such a way that limits visibility of the area in front or behind the driver.

Other risk management plans include allocating an access way for emergency vehicles if and when an accident occurs, posting sufficient signage so drivers, pedestrians and equipment operators know and understand their allocated paths and providing adequate training to all relevant traffic management staff.

The responsibilities of a traffic controller

According to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, individuals must carry their Traffic Controller Accreditation Scheme accreditation identity card at all times while working as a traffic controller. They must also be able to present this card to any police officer, transport inspector, WHS inspector and Department of Main Roads auditor when requested.

Most states and territories require similar accreditation, which means employers must ensure the workers they ask to control traffic have received adequate traffic management training. Where legislation requires a licence or accreditation to perform this duty, the traffic controller must comply with those regulations. All other people who are required to perform duties associated with shared roadways should be provided with suitable training to perform those duties.

In addition to the training requirements, official traffic controllers have a duty of care to all drivers and pedestrians they have been put in charge of. 

This duty of care means traffic controllers must follow a strict set of regulations in order to perform their role safely and efficiently. Traffic controllers are required to maintain a zero percent blood-alcohol concentration and also avoid drugs or medication that may cause functional impairment.

The traffic controller will also be responsible for ensuring adequate signage has been prepared to warn pedestrians and drivers of the conditions ahead. This includes removing the signage at the end of the workday, to avoid unnecessary delays when traffic management is not in place.

However, it is the duty of care of the employer or site manager in charge of the traffic controller to make sure this signage is available for use on the worksite.

Additionally, site managers and business owners must never ask a traffic controller to do anything that may breach the terms and conditions of the Traffic Controller Accreditation Scheme – Approved Procedure (TCASAP) or cause any employees or visitors to the site to operate in an unsafe manner or environment.

For more information on traffic management plans and training on your worksite, get in touch with AlertForce today!