News & Views

The dangers of workplace transport

BY Steve Ashton
Health & Safety
BG Orange

A sombre note to start the new year and a key priority for the enforcement agencies for the past few years. Three employers found out the hard way in court in December that workplace transport accidents are a key risk for many businesses.

No doubt the families of the three victims of the accidents which led to court would say the lessons were learned too late. 

In the first case, a reversing lorry crushed a man against his own vehicle in a council depot.  Lorry drivers had been told to ensure they had reversing assistance whenever they had to manoeuver - but CCTV evidence produced in court showed clearly that few if any of the drivers actually took this simple precaution.  Reversing trucks generally have large 'blind spots' and any reversing manoeuver must be treated as a potential risk.  The Council were severely criticised for not having any system of monitoring in place to ensure the 'rules' were followed.  The lesson should be obvious - if you think you have a safe system of work in place - when did you last check it was being used properly?  An all-singing all-dancing Management System Document is no use if all it does is gather dust in the bottom drawer.  Every business needs a system to monitor and manage its dangerous activities to ensure no 'shortcuts' are being taken. 

In the second, a Hospital had a 'pedestrian crossing' painted on the site roadway for patients walking from the car parks to the main entrance.  Unfortunately, visibility at the crossing was poor, the crossing was angled so pedestrians couldn't see approaching vehicles easily and (perhaps most critically) the delivery area at the end of the road often became so congested with improperly parked cars that lorries making deliveries to the kitchen couldn't turn. As a result lorries had to reverse into the site a considerable distance along the roadway including across the pedestrian crossing.  Previous incidents had been reported but nothing appears to have been done. Almost inevitably, a patient was struck and run over by a reversing delivery lorry.  The lessons again should be obvious - plan traffic flows to minimise the need for reversing.  Keep pedestrians away from areas where vehicles do need to manoeuver.  Keep track of all incidents that happen, and see if there is anything you can learn from low-severity incidents which may indicate poor control of a high severity risk. And - if you have parking restrictions - enforce them, they are there for a reason! 

Finally, a delivery driver was struck and killed by a reversing forklift truck.  He was standing by the open door of his van making a phone call and probably didn't see the Forklift approach.  We seem to have a bee in our bonnet about this issue - but distraction from mobile phone use is a real and apparently increasing risk, and needs to be effectively managed by training and enforcement of rules.  If you have a delivery area, review your rules for drivers, vehicle movement, access by pedestrians and use of mobile phone.  Then enforce them. 

Traffic Management Plans don't always need to be complex or expensive - but they do need to be clearly thought through, and any 'rules' which are needed to ensure safety must be properly implemented with training, signage and monitoring as necessary.  Any incident involving cars vans or lorries hitting people on foot is likely to result in serious or - as in these cases - fatal injuries.  Law at Work can help to review your arrangements for delivery areas, or for the office car park. 

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