Workplace transport incidents are the focus in our series exploring core OSH topics and your role in ensuring risks are well managed.
1. Understand the danger
Workplace transport incidents are a leading cause of occupational injuries and fatalities. The risks can be more varied than you may imagine:
- Collisions and crushing
- Falls from height
- Musculoskeletal conditions
- Psychological and physiological effects
- Fire and explosions.
Incidents can occur at a number of locations and still be classed as happening ‘at the workplace’. For example, they can apply not only to established, permanent places of work but also to temporary work
sites and associated operations.
Workplace transport risks break down into three categories:
- Transport site and operational factors – where operations and tasks take place, and in which workers, vehicles, pedestrians and equipment may be present
- Vehicle factors – associated with vehicles and their use in workplace transport operations
- Human and administrative factors – associated with people and administrative management involved in workplace transport operations.
2. Risk-assessing the dangers
IOSH recommends taking five steps in assessing a risk hazard:
- Step 1: Identify the hazards
- Step 2: Who can be harmed and how?
- Step 3: Assess the risks
- Step 4: Decide on what controls are needed. Reassess the risks
- Step 5: Record significant findings, communicate them and review assessment as necessary.
You can use IOSH’s risk rating matrix (see Figure 1) to estimate the impact of a risk based on the likelihood of it occurring and its increasing consequence (that is, risk = likelihood × consequence). Depending on where the risk falls, this can be broken down into five actions:
- No action – but ensure necessary controls are maintained and reviewed
- Monitor – and look to improve at next review
- Action – improve within the specified timescale
- Urgent action – take immediate action and stop activity if necessary
- Stop – end activity now and take immediate action.
You can identify hazards by conducting workplace inspections or by using the ‘what if’ or ‘task analysis’ methods. Risk assessments can either be based on an educated opinion (qualitative method) or by using measurement and calculations (quantitative method). Any existing control measures should be taken into account as part of your risk analysis.
Risk assessments are recorded using templates, which typically ask questions such as: ‘What is the hazard?’ and ‘Who might be harmed and how?’ They also focus on issues such as existing risk control measures, the risk rating, additional controls that could be implemented, and the new risk rating (residual risk).
3. Site and operational risk factors
There are many hazards to consider when exploring on-site and operational risk factors at a workplace. These include traffic routes; site speed; site lighting; vehicle washdowns; refuelling points; loading bay ‘drive-away’ incidents; deliveries (storage); waste; parking; site blind spots and corners; ground openings; manual handling loads; snow and ice; heavy rain and flooding; and electrical storms.
Common ways to control likely hazards include introducing:
- One-way systems
- Crossing and signalling systems
- Speed limits
- Narrowed routes
- External lighting
- Gritting plans
- Pedestrian walkways
- Reverse parking in bays
- Speed restrictors on vehicles
- Key control.
4. Vehicle risk factors
Vehicles can also create transport risks or hazards on a workplace site. These include overturning vehicles; tipping operations; securing loads; distractions caused by electronic devices; vehicles reversing; vehicle run-away or roll-away; and vehicle cleanliness.
IOSH suggests several ways to tackle these to prevent accidents or fatalities. For example:
- Introduce planned tipping operations
- Avoid turning tipping vehicles with a raised body in high winds or near overhead obstructions
- Use coverings and anchor points to secure loads
- Make it a rule not to use electronic devices while driving
- Add additional cameras to a vehicle to improve all-round visibility
- Apply rules as simple as ‘apply the parking brake when stationary’.
5. Human and administrative risk factors
People can pose a number of risks at a workplace. These include the competency of the person driving a vehicle; the use of illicit drugs, alcohol and medication; psychosocial considerations, such as fatigue or aggressive behaviours; security risks; and the monitoring of sites, vehicles and equipment.
These risks or hazards can be successfully mitigated by:
- Ensuring drivers hold the correct type of driving licence, are properly trained and inducted, and undergo random drug testing
- Introducing locking procedures, ensuring doors, windows and unauthorised access points are locked, both on-site and in vehicles
- Maintaining checklists, logs and inspections to monitor sites, vehicles and equipment.