It is common to start an article about traffic management training with a summary of the latest traffic controller death. But AlertForce has been reporting on these deaths for some time and the fact that controlling traffic is a high risk occupation is without doubt.
Expectations of some construction and infrastructure projects are expanding some of the tasks of the traffic controller that can change the types of risks faced and the context of the work. Also as the Work Health and Safety laws settle in, in most Australian States, traffic management is receiving increased attention from project clients; many of these clients are State governments.
The classic traffic controller is the flagmen, the Stop/Slow traffic controllers. These continue to be an integral control measure in reducing potential harm to workers but construction site and infrastructure projects are also employing traffic controllers to manage site access. They are more than gatekeepers and require a strong understanding of what is occurring on the construction site, so that they can, amongst other tasks, check and verify a legitimate delivery, ensure that the worksite is not clogged with deliveries or ensure that a visitor does not drive aimlessly around site.
Sometimes the physical site access has not been designed as well as it could have been and fails to anticipated the width, length or height of the plant or materials being delivered. This is particularly the case on construction sites that can change rapidly. Temporary or poorly-planned site access can increase the risk to the traffic controller who is usually required to get close to the vehicle in order to communicate with the driver. There have been several instances of traffic controllers being driven over, usually resulting in injuries to their lower limbs.
Traffic controllers should attend prestarts so that they understand the reasons behind traffic types, traffic volumes and any recent public or site concerns that may affect their duties. Perhaps more importantly, attending a prestart allows the traffic controller to raise any issues with site access or deliveries, for instance, that may have been unsafe or dangerous. These issues can often be resolved at the prestart and reduce the risks for the rest of the day or longer.
Controlling site access is not without its own risks. Truck drivers can be as impatient as any car driver and can be irate at having to be kept waiting, in line or even turned away – such is the authority of the traffic controller.
Recently one major Victorian infrastructure project provided additional training about traffic management to its safety advisers. This was undertaken as part of the Client’s OHS due diligence obligations as the Client had identified a hole in the advisers’ knowledge about traffic management and traffic controllers.
In the past such knowledge may have been picked up by a safety person on the job but more likely traffic plans and management were not looked at closely. The existence of a traffic management plan, no matter how poor, was often enough to satisfy a site walk.
Skilling up safety advisers increased attention to traffic management plans and controller activities. Many controllers are not comfortable with this level of attention but the safety adviser’s role is expanding beyond the limits of a construction site or project and they are entitled, under the WHS
laws they are encouraged, to inspect all of the safety documents and work processes related with that work site. Site safety walks are more likely to include traffic management than in the past.
This additional level of scrutiny requires traffic management plans to be accurate and to be part of, or linked to, the overall site safety management plans. It requires traffic controllers to be active participants in the prestarts, toolboxes and other consultative mechanisms on any project.
The obligations of traffic controllers and managers have not changed greatly – plans have to meet strict guidelines and codes, controllers need to set out their traffic control equipment in prescribed ways. But Work Health and Safety is changing and traffic controllers are becoming less invisible to the safety planning and auditing processes as project managers and, often government, clients are improving their understanding and scrutiny of traffic management.
Traffic controllers need to maintain their training and skills to the best standard that they can but they also must see themselves as part of the construction project and be involved in the decisions that may affect them or increase their risk.
To be accredited as traffic controller, a person must complete an approved Traffic Controller Training Course. The course must be delivered through a registered training organisation (RTO) approved by the relevant State Regulator.
For more details on AlertForce’s nationally recognised traffic control NSW training, go to https://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/nationally-recognised-traffic-control-training-nsw/