Road safety in the workplace
Garry Bailey discusses the inconsistency in workplaces between attitudes on vehicle safety and other workplace practices.
In many Tasmanian workplaces, vehicles are an essential tool of the trade. They may be company utes or vans, employer-provided cars, or personal vehicles used for work purposes. In these workplaces, there is often a strong emphasis on safety - with equipment, machinery and even phone chargers undergoing regular inspections and testing to ensure they meet strict safety standards. Workplace health and safety systems are in place to protect workers and employers alike, with stringent sanctions for breaches and training to maintain a safe environment for all.
However, when it comes to vehicles used for work, there is often a gap in safety practices. Workers may leave their workplace and drive off in a vehicle without any knowledge of its safety features or maintenance history. Similarly, passengers may be unaware of the competence or driving history of their workmate behind the wheel.
Four years ago, Tasmania endorsed the “Vehicles as a Workplace: Work Health and Safety Guide” to incorporate road safety into workplace health and safety. Unfortunately, actions taken so far have been limited to the Tasmanian Government‘s operations and the development of the Department of State Growth’s safe use of vehicles policy. According to the National Road Safety Action Plan, vehicle use in road traffic is the most significant contributor to work-related traumatic injury. Safe Work Australia reports that 68% of worker traumatic injury fatalities since 2017 have involved a vehicle, with half of these incidents occurring on public roads.
The Tasmanian Government needs to implement a comprehensive, whole-of government approach to road safety in the workplace. This initiative should encompass all agencies and government business enterprises, leading by example and encouraging private businesses to follow suit. Although some Tasmanian businesses, particularly in heavy transport, are already making strides in this area, a coordinated effort is required to integrate road safety, driver behaviour monitoring, and in-cabin and GPS technology into workplace health and safety regimes across the state.
The way forward is clear:
Treat vehicles as dangerous machines, subject to the same safety standards as other workplace equipment.
Regularly inspect and maintain vehicles to ensure they meet safety standards.
Ensure workers using vehicles are competent to operate them.
Implement a training regime to assess, maintain and improve driver competency.
Establish government inspections to ensure compliance and enforce penalties for non-compliance.
Recognise employers’ duty of care to employees operating vehicles.
Encourage employees to adhere to workplace health and safety regulations.
Extend employees‘ duty of care to passengers in work vehicles.
Make road rules the workplace rules when using a vehicle for work purposes.
Use improved workplace behaviour to influence positive change in drivers‘ habits off-duty.
By implementing these measures, we can improve road safety n Tasmanian workplaces, promote responsible driving habits and protect employees.