The most common accidents involving vehicles are not high-speed, but drivers hit by other vehicles (especially fork-lift trucks) or crushed between their vehicle and a trailer whilst coupling or decoupling, or pedestrians run over by reversing vehicles. Falls from vehicles are a further significant cause of serious injuries, with the HSE receiving around 2000 reports every year.
An Health and Safety Executive UK (HSE) review of workplace vehicle accidents suggested that around 70% of accidents have at their heart the failure of the organization to produce a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. So here are seven failings in on-site traffic management risk assessments:
1. Risk assessment for workplace transport
A key failing is overly generic risk assessments – those written for a particular operation of a vehicle in one location and then assumed to apply to other vehicle types, in other locations, and for other operations. Or perhaps written in such wide coverage that the controls are too vague to monitor. What happens if a vehicle is too wide for the loading bay? Or too low to reach the loading bay dock?
A generic risk assessment is fine as a template, but variants might be needed to cover each part of the operation and for vehicles of different sizes. Don’t forget to also consider if lighting or weather conditions need to be taken into account.
2. 'Vehicles should stay within the yellow lines' and 'pedestrians should wear high vis jackets.'
However much effort you put into your risk assessment, it won’t be suitable or sufficient if it has to rely on procedural controls such as these. Whilst short-term measures might be needed, the aim should be that the area used by vehicles is inherently safe. Design traffic flows to avoid the need to reverse and provide completely separate routes for pedestrians and vehicles.
3. Vehicles will be safe
What is a safe vehicle? Can you get involved in specifying requirements for safety features on new vehicles, or for contractor or supplier vehicles? Consider all-around visibility, the comfort of seatbelts, speed limiters, and under-run protection. Although the Safer Lorry Scheme (UK) is targeting safety for pedestrians and cyclists on the public highway, it is a recognizable minimum standard you should insist on for lorries on your site.
4. Follow a safe system of work
As with risk assessments, safe systems of work (SSoW) are often overly generic and inadequately reviewed. The HSE found that only around a third of SSoW were written down, with the remaining two-thirds adopted through custom and practice. For safety-critical operations, documenting your SSoW makes it easier to review, share and use as a training aid. Your risk assessment should then refer to a specific documented SSoW, with the date it was last reviewed.
5. Follow site rules
Rules must be communicated and monitored – and appropriate action must be taken if the rules are broken. The HSE found that in around 60% of workplace transport accidents, management had failed to monitor standards in order to detect and correct unsafe behavior.
Previous blogs on the sentencing guidelines and gross negligence manslaughter looked at situations where organizations found themselves in the dock because someone had died, and the organization could present no evidence that a rule to wear a seat belt had been monitored and enforced. As well as your own staff, think about visiting drivers. If you send rules in advance to a supplier or expect a driver to read a list of rules on a board at the gate, how do you check the understanding of those rules?
6. Staff will be competent
Competence involves knowledge, skill, and experience. Training can provide the initial knowledge, but skill can only develop through experience, initially supervised. Consider as well whether someone experienced with using one type of forklift to unload a vehicle has the competence to use a different handling device to unload a different type of vehicle. Coupling and decoupling, loading and unloading as well as maneuvering vehicles (for drivers and banksmen) must all have competences defined, and refresher training schedules set and monitored. These definitions and schedules should then be referenced in the risk assessment.
7. 'Maintain vehicles' and 'be vigilant around site safety'
Your safe site and safe vehicles will only remain safe if they are maintained. Vaguely specified controls can’t be measured. Your risk assessments should refer to planned preventative maintenance schedules and regular, documented workplace inspections, to show you are on top of the situation and managing your risks.
It's always important to be able to identify potential risks in your workplace, at all times of the year. The EcoOnline EHS Risk Assessment Software was created to ensure full control of the risk assessment lifecycle.
For more information as to how EcoOnline EHS can help you to organize and streamline any of your organization's health and safety processes, why not Contact one of our super friendly product specialists or request a demo.