Following consultation in 2020, WorkSafe New Zealand (WorkSafe) has recently released new good practice guidelines for managing work site traffic (Guidelines).
The Guidelines are intended to create a comprehensive reference point for businesses and workers with information about how to keep healthy and safe around vehicles and mobile plant.
An ongoing challenge
In the last five years, WorkSafe has recorded 372 workplace fatalities with more than 200 of those categorised as being vehicle or mobile plant related. In 2020 alone, there were 37 vehicle and mobile plant related deaths, making up more than half of the 61 total deaths recorded in that period.
These statistics demonstrate that the interaction of people and mobile plant is, and will remain, a threat to life and limb until all businesses and workplaces can ensure that the risks associated with vehicles and mobile plant are managed effectively.
In an attempt to assist duty holders achieve this and meet their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), WorkSafe has produced the Guidelines.
We welcome this, as previous guidance from past regulators was unfocused, consisting of disparate quick guides and facts sheets on a vast range of discrete issues. In contrast, the Guidelines create a “one stop shop” with comprehensive guidance for safe traffic management in any given workplace.
What do the Guidelines cover?
The Guideline is split into seven key subject areas:
- Working with other PCBUs
- Risk management
- Safe work site design and activity
- Safe vehicles
- Safe people
- Work site inductions
- Traffic management plans.
From these, several key points to emerge:
- It is common for a work site to be shared by multiple PCBUs. When this happens, each PCBU has legal duties in relation to the same health and safety risks. These are known as overlapping duties. The guide affirms that PCBUs must cooperate and coordinate their management of relevant risks, rather than pushing the responsibility onto others and not considering it themselves. Overlapping duties apply to all relevant parties and, if ignored, prosecution may follow.
- To significantly lower the risk of harmful people and mobile plant interactions, a work site should be designed to keep pedestrians and vehicles apart. Measures such as pedestrian crossings, clear vehicle routes, consistent markings and signage, maintained road surfaces, and the separation of vehicle and pedestrian routes, are integral to reducing risk.
- Along with a safe work site design, the activities that occur within any site must also be regulated. Clear policies about speed limits, reversing vehicles, loading and unloading, waiting areas, tipping, load securing and queuing vehicles must be in place to maximise and complement the safe design of the work site.
- The vehicles used on a work site must be safe. While a well maintained, technologically safeguarded and seatbelt proficient vehicle will reduce health and safety risks, the people using the vehicles must also be safe. Vehicle operators must be certified, trained, competent and well equipped; the physical safety features of the vehicle are not sufficient without more to manage the human element.
- Finally, the communication of safety measures must be clear and coherent to all visitors to a site. This can be achieved through structured work site inductions, traffic management plans and, where necessary, traffic management committees formed to oversee and coordinate the actions of multiple PCBUs.
The Guidelines includes links to further helpful information, as well as to some of the previously existing quick guides and fact sheets.
Will the Guidelines make a material difference?
Phil Parkes, the Chief Executive of WorkSafe, has said: “It is clear that we (WorkSafe) can’t do this alone. This mammoth task of reducing workplace harm needs to be shared by all New Zealanders. We all have a role to play.” We agree.
WorkSafe has made a number of positive strides to increase awareness of the risks associated with vehicles, mobile plant and interactions with pedestrians. This has included identifying the transport, postal, and warehousing sectors as WorkSafe focus areas, owing to the high number of vehicle and mobile plant related incidents occurring within these industries.
However, the number of incidents (and health and safety prosecutions) that continue to involve vehicle and mobile plant operations show there is still a lot of work to be done. The Guidelines are a good step in the right direction, and we hope they will be embraced as a useful resource by those organisations regularly dealing with vehicle and mobile plant related risks.
If you have any questions or concerns about how the Guidelines will affect your workplace management of mobile plant and traffic related risks, or how they can help you to do better, our team of health and safety experts are happy to assist.
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