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Worksafe on our roads

Updated: May 12, 2020

By Warren Dalzell, CFInstD

HSWA, PCBU and Primary Duty of Care, Officers and Due Diligence – of course we know this acronym soup! Are we becoming blasé? Do we wish Worksafe would just go away? Fat chance!

As directors or senior managers, readers are probably Officers as defined by the Health and Safety at Work Act. Independent directors are probably Officers of several businesses or undertakings concurrently. We Officers have significant obligations requiring continuing due diligence to ensure that the business is meeting its health and safety responsibilities. Not to be forgotten is our personal exposure to hefty penalties.

A principle of the Act is that the entity creating the risk, manages it. Fair enough. This implies that with more involvement, learning and an open mind, we can shift our attitude to one of genuinely caring for the health and safety of our workers, and participating in the reduction of risk.

Worksafe’s stated focus is currently on adventure activities, agriculture, asbestos, Canterbury rebuild, construction and building, energy safety, forestry, hazardous substances, high hazards, manufacturing and work related health.

Importantly, it has recently elevated its focus on safety in work vehicles given that about 30% of road crashes occur in work-related vehicles.

The numbers are big. About 250,000 workers (10% of the workforce) are required to drive a work vehicle at least occasionally. On our roads are work-related journeys involving trucks, buses and coaches, cars, vans and taxis - plus all the off-road vehicles in agriculture, industry, forestry, construction, etc.

For hundreds of hair-raising crashes, you might visit YouTube for its Dashcam Owners Australia/ Australian Car Crash Compilations.  A terrifying wake-up for all of us HWSA Officers! Now appreciating the crash risks faced by our workers and contractors reinforces our duty to manage on-road health and safety. We cannot assume that a driver’s licence is proof of competency, and have to take the lead ourselves: -

Utilising the system and tools on offer from Worksafe;

Looking for ways to mitigate risk and to get the drivers and their passengers home safe;

Working on driver competency, driver risk factors, vehicle safety features, fleet condition, load limits, and shift rosters.

Under strong policy direction from boards and CEOs, it is the HR and Training managers who are making considerable progress to derisk the fleet driving activity on our roads. Their focus is on competency, alertness, concentration and elimination of distraction.

New technologies are making this work more efficient for the organisation while much more palatable to drivers.

Examples of these technologies are:

Simulators: Long accepted in pilot training, a simulator projects a virtual cab of a truck or coach in a realistic road environment. The simulator assesses the competency of the driver against prescribed driving standards and proposes training modules to bring that driver to a higher and safer level of skills.

Dashcams: Around for several years as a retrofit and now standard in Teslas and some hi-spec trucks. A few advanced models offer a two-way camera, recording both the road ahead and the driver at work. The latest development is an Australian invention, which knows the planes of its driver’s face and recognises the signs of falling asleep. This ultimate guardian of driver safety is programmed to wake the driver before a catastrophic crash.

Fatigue management systems, which bring behavioural and lifestyle dimensions to the issue.

Palatable training modules for drivers, often delivered as a standard element of a Learning Management System operated by the organisation’s HR Department. Modules are becoming tight, focused, relevant and practical.  Viewable online via Smartphone, this training is virtually painless yet risk based, effective and compliant.

Supporting these technologies are various managed data systems, capturing and assessing data against standards, reporting to fleet owners, proposing and recording driver development programmes, validating compliance, and providing evidence for insurers, regulators and courts.

Under Board and Senior Management direction, HR and Training Managers are proactively assessing their options for efficient and effective compliance and competency assessment and monitoring, fitting seamlessly within existing training systems. As importantly, for their positive effect in building a workplace culture of caring that our people get home safely.

Worksafe is a strong supporter of the adoption of these technologies, assessment and training systems and is installing selected technologies in their own vehicles alongside driver competency programmes for their people.

While the Primary Duty of Care sits with the business or undertaking (the PCBU), this is a technical point since the business is not usually a person. The reality is that we Officers must ensure that the business is meeting its responsibilities and that the risks of our work-related driving are understood and managed.

Are you fully up to speed with Worksafe’s concepts? Test yourself on the Worksafe quizzes!

Declaration of Interest – Warren Dalzell, CFInstD, is chairman and shareholder of a specialist work-related driver competency and safety company.

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