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Duty of Care: No Road Safety Where It’s Needed

2 minute read

You’ve heard of ‘Stop, Drop and Roll’ and you know what to do if someone ‘Slips, Trips and Falls’. Maybe you’re even qualified to perform CPR to the beat of the Bee Gee’s ‘Staying Alive’ on a co-worker… but do you know how to be road safe in the workplace?

On our roads, work-related crashes make up 15% of national road deaths each year.

In fact, 33% of Australia’s reported occupational fatalities are work-related vehicle crashes.

From freight and logistics to couriers and posties, from rideshares and private transport to fast food delivery and mobile maintenance, the ability to opt for service on wheels has never been so endless.

Unfortunately, what brings ease and comfort for some of us, can bring injury and death for others.

It’s no secret that the nationwide lockdown supercharged our reliance on delivery services. In 2020 alone, online retail sales grew by 63%, while fast-food delivery service sales grew by 12%.

For many the option to make money in a financially unstable economy was welcome, but the disruption to delivery chains also meant the onboarding of fresh courier and delivery recruits – correlating with a 12% increase in the number of annual work-related vehicle fatalities occurring when compared to 2018.

Depending on what type of vehicle or good is being transported, between 69-80% of fatalities per sub-industry are caused by vehicle incidents. Those who do not lose their lives in such accidents often end up requiring workers’ compensation, with approximately 14 serious injury claims being made by those in the road transport injury every day.

These claims aren’t just limited to truck or transport workers either, it includes agriculture and construction vehicle workers, and those travelling to/from work or between worksites.

In 2019, of the 183 work-related fatalities that occurred, road accidents accounted for 43% of these deaths. Despite being the most common cause of work-related fatalities, injuries, and absences, this occupational safety issue remains brushed under the rug.

It’s a problem so widespread that it might seem intimidating to tackle but addressing the issue from the beginning of the employment process could be a step in the right direction.

Under Work, Health and Safety law, businesses and employers are obligated to train their workers and ensure their health and safety.

From providing adequate and up to date driver training, making sure vehicles and their equipment are safe or providing clear guidelines and measures for post-incident responses, there are several processes employers can have in place to promote road safety.

Even the simple act of making sure an employee is fit for work can increase the chances that a worker starts and finishes their shift in one piece.

As complex and variable as road safety in the workplace may seem, it is no longer feasible to ignore the issue. Time, goods, and profit are all lost in a road crash, but the greatest loss is the one borne on the colleagues, family and friends of the workers who never make it back home.

It’s an obligation that comes with the job and while it can be argued that anything that takes place on the roads and behind the wheel is a driver issue (or at the very least a public one), when the roads are the workplace, and the vehicle is the worksite, the lines of duty of care begin to blur.

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