Truck driving is one of our country’s most dangerous occupations. Drivers have a 13-fold higher risk of dying at work than other jobs, a 12-year university study has found. Over the period of the research (to 2018), the study found they lodged more than 120,000 claims for work-related injury and diseases.
How can you safely accelerate risk management strategies for your transport business?
Risk management – what is it and what do you stand to benefit?
Managing your risks will include:
- Identifying hazards
- Assessing, mitigating, controlling and, where possible, eliminating risks
- Monitoring and reviewing risks
- Incident reporting.
That approach is a key part of your safety management system, including your safety policy and documentation, risk management, assurance, and promotion and training. Under the Heavy Vehicle National Law and Regulations, your business must have ‘safety duties’ for all parties in your ‘Chain of Responsibility’ (CoR) must follow. Incorporating these in your safety management system will keep you compliant. This guide from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator steps you through the process.
The most common causes of incidents include speeding, driver error, fatigue, fire, mechanical failure, theft, or rolling while tipping. Additional risks to manage including transporting dangerous goods, and when your truck is off the road while you source parts and repairers.
Fatigue management training
An Australian research centre for alertness, safety and productivity offers these insights on one of the most significant risks – driver fatigue:
- Time of day – highest alertness 6am to 8pm
- Significant drowsiness – 11pm to 5am
- Shift duration – significant drowsiness after 12 hours
- Shift start time – the lowest risk was for 6am to midday starts, the highest for 6pm to midnight starts
- Sequential shifts – drowsiness increased after more than 7 shifts in a row.
For fatigue-regulated vehicles (check this site for the finer details), your company must comply with laws for fatigue management. These cover chain of responsibility, counting time, fatigue management exemptions, record keeping, work and rest hours and a work diary. Check out the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s basic and advanced accreditation modules for fatigue management. And, here’s a handy daily work and rest hours’ planner for solo drivers.
Manually handling freight
The risks continue even when your drivers aren’t on the road. Manual handling accounts for about a third of truck drivers’ injuries, with the average incident costing a hefty $17,000, says SafeWork NSW. Heavy lifting, awkward postures, long stints of doing the same movements and inappropriate lifting equipment and plant are the major culprits.
As the employer, you can minimise these issues by:
- Reducing the need to handle freight manually – use fit-for-purpose equipment such as forklifts, pallet jacks, trolleys, or tailgate lifters
- Slimming the size and weight of items
- Using pallets for grain and other bulk deliveries, including dangerous goods
- Ensuring items are accessible for unloading
- Moving away from high foot/road traffic areas when unloading
- Requesting input from those who load/unload material
- Training staff on exemplary manual handling the safe use of equipment
- Distributing high-vis vests, non-slip footwear, and where suitable, overalls and gloves to your workers
- Opting for moving equipment that your staff push rather than pull as it’s safer for them.
The risks to workers when securing loads include when handling the truck’s side gates, opening and closing side curtains, placing corner protectors and lashings over the loads as well as using chain or webbing-based tensioning devices. This link to Safety in the road freight transport industry offers detailed solutions to minimise those risks.
In the road freight transport industry, about one in seven injuries happen due to trucks, forklifts, or other moving objects hitting workers. Managing the risks are the responsibility of the transport operator, the business where loading/unloading of the freight happens and the businesses which control mobile plant in that workplace. Each party must work together to ideally eliminate, or if not possible, then minimise and control the risks.
So, be clear on your policies and processes regarding communication before delivery and pick up, safety devices and steps for roadside delivery/pickup, and how your workers will load and unload. For more, see this guide and this one.
And, speaking about communication, reach out to us to help you find the best fit policy, such as fleet motor, liability, or a comprehensive transport package, for your business.