WorkSafe WA recently issued a guidance note on the safe movement of vehicles on worksites after the results of a coronial inquest into the death of a postal worker were released.
Employers need to ensure safe systems of work are developed and implemented in workplaces where vehicles and workers are present in the same area, said WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanagh.
“Wherever vehicles and people occupy the same workspace, strict rules need to be in place to ensure the work environment is kept as safe as possible,” Kavanagh said.
“There’s been a number of serious incidents over recent years involving vehicles and mobile plant operating in the same area as pedestrians, and the results can be devastating.”
An Australia Post postal worker was struck and killed by a reversing front-end loader that was clearing a residential construction site in Huntingdale in June 2015.
Late last year there were two separate fatal incidents in which vehicles were bogged and workers were crushed between the vehicle and another trying to recover it.
In both cases, the worker was either connecting or disconnecting the chain between the stranded vehicle and the recovery vehicle.
A short time later, a man was fatally injured when a tractor moved unexpectedly while he was investigating an oil leak underneath the vehicle.
“It’s evident by the number of injuries and deaths that have occurred over recent years that the focus has not been on the personnel/machine interface where vehicles and workers interact,” Kavanagh said.
“In the case of the Australia Post worker, the Coroner commented on the many hazards faced by postal workers every day in the course of their work.
“The Coroner said the hazards of operating heavy plant and equipment on worksites where there was a possibility of coming into contact with the public were also well known at the time of this incident.
“We’re very concerned about incidents involving mobile plant and workers.
“There are a number of contributing factors to these incidents, but a lack of safe work procedures and a lack of segregation of workers and vehicles is the common thread.
“I urge employers to ensure movement and speed of vehicles is managed to minimise the risk of injury and that workplaces are designed and maintained to ensure the safety of operators and others.”
In addition, Kavanagh said safe systems of work, communication systems and signage need to be in place, and everyone at the workplace needs to be adequately trained in these safe systems.
Where possible, workers should not be in close proximity to moving plant or underneath vehicles or plant that is not adequately supported.
A guidance note is available on the safe movement of vehicles at workplaces, and all relevant workplaces should ensure they are familiar with the contents of this publication.
A self-assessment tool is also available on the WorkSafe WA website so workplaces that contain vehicles or other mobile plant can actually assess themselves for compliance with workplace safety laws.