One of the major risks associated with construction sites is that posed by the coming and going of traffic of all kinds – trucks, diggers, cars, utes, lorries, cranes, forklifts, bikes – you name it, they’ve at some point rumbled on through a construction site. Add pedestrians and site workers to the mix and the potential for serious accidents is high. Commenting in the wake of a tragic accident on a road upgrade site in Adelaide, the CFMEU claimed that 2017 saw about one death per week on Australian construction sites. While not all of these were traffic-related incidents, the figure is a sobering reminder that when it comes to construction sites, work health and safety has never been more important.
Critical to minimising risk is the implementation of high quality training. You can’t just stick anyone in the middle of the road with a slow and stop sign and hope for the best. Like any other skill, traffic control is one that requires time and specific knowledge. If you’re the PCBU, then it’s your responsibility to make sure your staff are given that appropriate training. In fact, the PCBU on a construction site (and that might include the principle contractor) often has extra responsibilities when the business or undertaking involves carrying out high risk construction work. These can include:
- Ensuring a safe work method statement (SWMS) is prepared before commencing works; and
- Preparing a Work Health and Safety (WHS) management plan for construction work costing $250,000 or more
AlertForce can provide on-site training for small groups that is nationally accredited under the Roads and Maritime Services Nationally Recognised Competency Qualification framework. Getting your training done on a live site is the most effective way to ensure your traffic controllers and associated workers know what they need to do.
So what are the major risks associated with traffic on and around construction sites?
SafeWork Australia has identified the following areas as high risk when it comes to traffic and construction sites:
- The interaction of pedestrians and vehicles: simply put, the more you can keep people and vehicles apart from each other, the better. Keep pedestrian access and vehicle access separate.
- Vehicle movement: if vehicles are moving, then they’re dangerous. Minimise movement on sites as much as possible and limit the number of vehicles operating at any one time.
- Reversing vehicles: just as they are on a residential street, reversing vehicles can be a threat to safety on a construction site. Keep traffic flow one way where ever possible and get warning systems in place. You know the drill – flashing lights, warning alarms, dash cams, radios, the works. And if you don’t, then it’s time to give us a buzz.
- Signs and visibility: high vis signage and uniforms are not just for decoration. Used effectively, they can be a very powerful way of alerting people to potential danger.
This is the short version. For a thorough analysis of the hazards on your site, refer to this checklist.
Is a traffic management plan necessary?
You bet. A traffic management plan is an essential part of your approach to work health and safety on a construction site. It should outline the business’s commitment to mitigating risk on the site and should have practical, enforceable controls that deliver a safe working environment. It might cover issues such as:
- Pedestrian and traffic routes
- Designated unloading areas
- Requirements for special vehicles like cranes
- Details of how often and where pedestrians and vehicles interact
- The responsibilities of those controlling traffic on the site
In addition, the plan should consider how the construction site will change over time and must be adjusted as needed to account for those changes.
What does the traffic controller do?
A traffic controller on a construction site will have a range of duties depending on the work being done. They are likely to include:
- Coordinating and setting up signage
- Using stop/slow signage
- Using radios to communicate
- Interpreting plans and drawings
- Maintaining a clean work environment
- Communicating with drivers, pedestrians and visiting contractors about the safe movement of vehicles and mobile plant.
There’s no getting away from it – construction sites, by their very nature, are filled with potential hazards, not the least of which is the cross over of vehicles or mobile plant with pedestrians and workers. Traffic controllers – properly trained and certified – are therefore essential to the safe functioning of the construction site environment.
Get your people trained on a live site for the best experience under our nationally accredited courses. We only operate in small groups and our competitive rates make AlertForce your best choice for training. Give us a call today so we can work together to eliminate accidents from Australian construction sites.