Coronal inquest under consideration for food delivery industry

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Thursday, 24 February, 2022 - 12:45
Industry news
National News

The NSW Coroners Court is considering a coronial inquest that would investigate safety standards in the gig economy following the deaths of four food delivery riders.

Three of the riders worked for Uber Eats and a fourth rider worked for Hungry Panda, and all were killed in road accidents while working in Sydney in late 2020.

The potential judicial review comes after an overhaul of safety standards in the industry, with new regulations introduced by governments of NSW and Victoria after unions and politicians in the federal opposition pushed for changes to laws around the gig economy.

The Transport Workers’ Union said UberEats attempted to cover up the death of one worker and denied his family compensation by claiming he was not working at the time, even though he was logged in to the UberEats app and receiving orders when he was killed.

In another incident, DoorDash admitted it had failed to report the death of a food delivery worker killed in Melbourne a year earlier.

DoorDash management said they only became aware of the incident when preparing for their appearance at an inquiry.

“The gig economy’s sham contracting arrangements deliberately misclassify workers, placing them outside industrial protections so that companies can pressure workers to work longer, faster and take more risks without bearing any responsibility,” the TWU said.

“Even when action is taken – like recent fines imposed on Uber by the NSW Point to Point Commissioner for not disclosing over 500 incidents including collisions requiring hospitalisation – these companies write off the penalties as simply the cost of doing business.”

Quarterly data published by the NSW Government late last year showed a 70 per cent reduction in reported food delivery rider injuries across the state between April and June 2021.

Between April and June 2021 there were six-rider injuries, compared to 25 in the same period in 2020.

“Despite more and more riders being on the road, it’s reassuring to see that injury and fatality rates have reduced significantly since last year,” said Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson.

“Over the past six months we’ve worked tirelessly with the industry and with riders to highlight the need for increased safety in the sector, and although it’s still early days, our efforts are starting to make a difference.”

After a series of food delivery rider fatalities at the end of 2020, the NSW set up a food delivery rider task force, rolled out an education and compliance program across Sydney and announced new laws that will apply to all delivery platforms.

These include new requirements to ensure all riders are provided with personal protective equipment, receive comprehensive training, and are competent to do the work.