Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, a vehicle is considered as a place of work. Vehicles include roadgoing vehicles as well as off-road vehicles such as LUVs, forklifts and farm equipment.
Statistics for incidents and accidents involving vehicles being driven for work are under-reported because police often don’t collect information about the reason for a journey.
Australian statistics show that 62% of all reported work-related fatalities related to vehicles.
Fatigue is a major contributor to vehicle accidents, and it’s advised that all drivers and managers undergo fatigue management training.
A vehicle can be incidental to the job or it can be the main component of the job. For example, a plumber driving to a job site is using the vehicle for transport only, not to perform the actual work. An arborist towing a mulcher to a job site uses the vehicle for transport, but then also uses part of the vehicle for part of the job (i.e. the mulcher). A driver of a tanker truck uses the truck as the main part of the job as its purpose is to transport goods. The amount of time the vehicle is used, the times it is used and the way it is used all affect the risk.
Why are vehicles considered a place of work?
Vehicle use is tiring. Some vehicle use is subject to fatigue management using logbooks and worktime restrictions, but light vehicles aren’t included; health and safety legislation helps bring some accountability into the use of these vehicles.
Using a vehicle while working can be a distraction, for example, temptation to use a phone, and vehicle use is often under time pressure, e.g. delivery times or running late for a meeting.
Who can be prosecuted if there’s an incident?
Anyone in the chain of responsibility can be prosecuted. Risks are generally relatively well-known and obvious for vehicles, for example:
- Lack of training or induction on a particular vehicle
- Poor maintenance/no checks
- Incorrect vehicle for the job
- Lack of PPE
- Non-adherence to road rules or site rules
How can you reduce the risks around work vehicles?
Addressing the risks stated above, actions can include:
- Ensure all people that use a vehicle have permission to use it, and are trained on or have an induction for the vehicle.
- Conduct a pre-operation inspection and use a checklist or app to log it.
- Evaluate whether a vehicle is suitable for the tasks it is required to do; get feedback from the people that use the vehicle.
- Ensure that people wear the correct PPE in and around vehicles.
- Ensure that people understand the law, for example, the Road Code, when operating vehicles.