Understanding Safety: Basic Requirements for the Work Related Vehicle Safety
This discussion looks at the general occupational health and safety issues that are related to the use of vehicles in the workplace in Ireland, more commonly referred to as Work Related Vehicle Safety (WRVS). “The issue of WRVS covers a significant range of industry sectors and a wide range of activities”
What are work-related vehicles?
The issue of WRVS covers a significant range of industry sectors and a wide range of activities, but in general work-related vehicles are ubiquitous in the workplace and therefore their impact can be wide-ranging. The range and type of work-related vehicles is very broad and includes road going vehicles such as cars (commuting to and from a place of work in a vehicle is not generally accepted as a workplace activity), vans, trucks, tractors and tankers, construction site machinery such as bulldozers, front loaders and excavators and material handling vehicles such as forklift and reach trucks.
The legal framework
The legal framework that covers WRVS is based upon the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 and additionally under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations, 2007. The 2005 Act has more general employer duties such as to ensure the safety, health and welfare of employees and undertake risk assessments to identify, assess and mitigate workplace hazards, which of course also includes workplace vehicles and their associated activities. Interestingly, the 2005 Act also defines work-related vehicles as a place of work and therefore the obligations of employers undertaking work-related vehicle activities also covers;
- Vehicles are designed, provided and maintained in a condition that is safe and without risk to health.
- Safe means of access and egress to and from the vehicle is designed, provided and maintained.
- Systems of work are planned, organised, performed, maintained and revised as appropriate, for example, safe systems of work must be available for vehicle loading and unloading activities.
- Information, instruction, training and supervision is provided for all employees who operate work-related vehicles. 1
The 2007 regulations address issues in more detail such as safe and clearly marked traffic routes, signage and the organisation of the workplace to ensure that both workplace vehicles and pedestrians can interact in a safe manner. There are also some specific industry sectors such as quarrying and the transportation of dangerous goods on the road which will have additional regulatory requirements for their respective industry sector and their vehicles types and activities.
It is vital that employees educate their workers on this issue which can be accomplished using the company safety induction process and online health and safety training. Don’t forget contractor inductions too where there is a requirement, especially on construction-related worksites.
WRV accident statistics and trends
The Irish Health and Safety Authority collects and analyses workplace accident data and after an analysis found that between “2003 and 2012, almost half of the 573 reported deaths arising from workplace accidents were vehicle-related.” In addition, the transport and storage sector “reports an average of 1000 injuries each year, resulting in up to 100 lost working days…” 2 which also included injuries due to being struck by workplace vehicles – in effect, historical NACE statistical data (NACE or Nomenclature of Economic Activities in the European statistical classification of economic activities where NACE groups organisations according to their business activities) and trend analysis indicates that workplace vehicles are a significant injury vector. These fatalities and injuries tend to be with drivers of heavy trucks and also with mobile plant operators. The principal activities that tended to cause work-related vehicle injuries and fatalities were found to include;
- Reversing and low-speed manoeuvring.
- The coupling and uncoupling of vehicles and trailers.
- Securing and working with vehicle loads.
- Driving as a work activity.
In recognition of this undesirable trend, the Irish Health and Safety Authority has developed a new three-year plan outlining a course of action, aimed at influencing and improving work-related vehicle safety in Ireland. The plan, entitled Work Related Vehicle Safety Programme – Plan and Priorities for 2016-2018 has six core objectives which can be summarised as;
- Engagement: To engage with key stakeholders to ensure a complementary, coordinated and consistent approach to the work-related vehicle (WRV) risk management across all work sectors.
- Compliance: To ensure continued improvements in work-related vehicle safety management through the provision of targeted inspections, investigations and enforcement action, as appropriate
- Education and training: To influence the standards, learning outcomes and programme content and uptake of education and training in relation to work-related vehicle risk management within further and higher education programmes.
- Guidance and intervention tools: To produce guidance and implement appropriate intervention tools to assist in assessing and controlling risk associated with work-related vehicle use.
- Enhanced information and intelligence: To improve the quality of information and intelligence available on work-related vehicle safety in the workplace and on the road, to ensure effective interventions and the most appropriate use of resources.
- Awareness raising: To raise awareness of work-related vehicle hazards, legal obligations and the importance of risk management in preventing accidents, protecting businesses and reducing lost time at work
The starting position with this discussion, as with many others on workplace safety is to have a basic comprehension of the legislative requirements and with an understanding of those areas where workplace vehicles are used in your workplace(s), then to risk assess those activities to manage the identified risk to as low as is reasonably practicable. It is not necessary to start from the beginning as there is a lot of excellent guidance and information from competent sources such as the Health and Safety Authority, the Health and Safety Executive in the UK and also from many industry representative organisations that also issue guidance on the management of workplace vehicles for their own sector.
There are YouTube channels, 4 seminars, online courses and a range of other readily available information sources on this important issue and in addition, the Health and Safety Authority in conjunction with the Road Safety Authority have produced Driving for Work: A Guide for Employers which is readily available in CD and print format for all employers.
- Available from links on the webpage https://www.hsa.ie/eng/Vehicles_at_Work/Driving_for_Work/
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