Last month Austroads and several Australian state work-safe organisations released the first Vehicles as a Workplace: Work Health and Safety Guide.
This is the first Australasian guidance specifically targeting vehicles as workplaces within an organisational health and safety framework, combining risk management with the Safe System approach to road safety.
The guide reminds organisations that they have an obligation to provide safe workplaces whenever employees use vehicles for work. Compliance with traffic law alone is not necessarily sufficient to ensure workplace health and safety obligations are met.
The guidance covers all types of vehicles used to undertake work. In addition to vehicles directly managed by an organisation, this includes public transport, ride share, bicycles, as well as vehicles that are owned by workers and used during the course of their work (the "grey fleet").
A framework for managing road traffic risks through a health and safety lens is provided, setting out how to identify hazards and assess risk, as well as measures that can be applied to eliminate, isolate or reduce exposure to that risk. For example, the most effective measure for reducing road safety risk is to eliminate road travel entirely, or substitute it with something safer. This could be implemented by encouraging teleconferencing or combining trips to eliminate duplicated travel.
The grey fleet (vehicles owned or leased by employees) receives special attention as this is often neglected in health and safety policies. In our industry, this could include vehicles used by contractors, as well as employees who use their own vehicles to undertake site visits and attend meetings. Methods for managing the safety of the grey fleet include requiring mandatory minimum safety features and/or setting a maximum vehicle age.
Interestingly, the guidance does not cover the use emerging micro-mobility transport such as electric scooters, but the principles and process set out in the document could easily be applied to these transport modes.
The guidance also discusses journey planning and recognises that different roads provide different hazards and risks. Drivers should be encouraged to travel on roads with higher safety ratings or improved safety features. This supports our Safe Routing product that draws on our predictive road risk analysis expertise and provides a platform to enable organisations to balance safety risk and travel time when planning routes for employees.
We are also currently reviewing our internal health and safety policies and this guidance will assist us in providing safer vehicle workplaces for our staff. As industry leaders in road safety we will use this guidance to benchmark our organisational efforts to improve road safety.
Under the Safe System everyone has a responsibility for managing road safety risk. I challenge you to read the guidance and identify actions that your organisation can take to improve the safety of employees using vehicles at work.