The most common accidents involving vehicles are not high-speed, but drivers hit by other vehicles (especially fork-lift trucks), or crushed between their own 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.
A HSE review of workplace vehicle accidents suggested that around 70% of accidents have at their heart the failure of the organisation 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 written so as to have such a 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 too to consider if lighting or weather conditions need to be taken account of.
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 in 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-round visibility, the comfort of seat-belts, speed limiters and under-run protection. Although the Safer Lorry Scheme is targeting safety for pedestrians and cyclists on the public highway, it is a recognisable 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 behaviour. Previous blogs on the sentencing guidelines and gross negligence manslaughter looked at situations where organisations found themselves in the dock because someone had died, and the organisation 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 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 manoeuvring 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 Engage EHS Risk Assessment Software module was created to ensure full control of the risk assessment lifecycle.
For more information as to how Engage EHS can help you to organise and streamline any of your organisations health and safety processes, why not Contact one of our super friendly product specialists or request a demo.