Worker’s death sparks safety debate around employer-owned vehicles

For the past two months, WorkSafe has reported four fatalities who died in separate incidents while working around employer-owned vehicles, particularly company trucks.

As the number of worker deaths has increased, the workplace health and safety regulator reminded employers of their obligations to ensure a safe workplace.

Series of unfortunate events
According to WorkSafe, the latest truck incident happened on 11 July when a 29-year-old diesel mechanic died after he was run over while working beneath a B-double trailer in Werribee South.

Unfortunately, WorkSafe reported that it was the ninth workplace casualty that involved loading, unloading, or working around trucks for the past 12 months and the fifth in 2022. The other fatalities include:

  • A 55-year-old worker who died on 5 July after he was squeezed between a tip truck and front end loader while unloading grain pellets in Cowwarr
  • A 64-year-old traffic controller who died on 22 June after a truck trailer tipped on him while unloading gravel in Wahring
  • A 54-year-old farm worker who was crushed on 25 May while trying to unload a bulk seed bag into a semi-trailer at Crowlands
  • A 60-year-old driver who died in hospital on 21 January after suffering from severe head injuries when he fell from the top of a truck at a grain depot in Maffra

Moreover, WorkSafe said two more workers died when they were hit by falling loads or equipment.

“A worker died when a truck rolled while loading a skip and another worker suffered fatal injuries after falling from a trailer,” WorkSafe said. “Last week, two workers were seriously injured while loading hot wax onto a tanker in West Melbourne.”

Clear warning for employers
Narelle Beer, WorkSafe executive director of Health and Safety, called for employers to regularly check their workplace safety methods and “do everything they could” to reduce hazards around loading and unloading trucks.

“Whether trucks are making deliveries to a construction site, on a farm, or maneuvering around a depot, wherever trucks are operating, employers must take all reasonable steps to maintain a safe workplace,” Beer said.

The executive director likewise reminded employers to take workplace hazards seriously because authorities have seen “a number of incidents where workplaces did not have adequate traffic management plans in place to reduce the risks from moving trucks, plant, or nearby traffic, resulting in serious injuries.”

Following the workplace fatalities, WorkSafe noted that it would not hesitate to prosecute employers who fail to provide a safe workplace. It pointed out that the penalties could include hefty fines and even jail time.

WorkSafe cited the concrete manufacturer Dandy Premix Concrete Pty Ltd as an example of a violating employer convicted in May 2021 and fined $120,000 after a worker was run over by a truck and severely injured at its Pakenham plant in 2018.

“WorkSafe supports employers to develop safe workplaces and systems through site visits and guidance, with further support available through our free and confidential OHS Essentials program,” the workplace health and safety regulator said.

Increased surveillance among industries
Recently, WorkSafe said it has targeted activities involving heavy vehicles in all industries.

“Inspectors are visiting workplaces focusing on activities around loading and unloading, including preventing falls from vehicles, objects falling, vehicle roll-aways and being hit by other vehicles, forklifts or animals,” it said.

Additionally, WorkSafe also provided several safety measures for employers when using or working around employer-owned or employer-rented vehicles, and these are the following:

  • A traffic management plan for pedestrians and mobile plants is in place, which is reviewed and updated as appropriate.
  • An effective communication system exists between operators, transport contractors, and ground staff.
  • Machinery and vehicles are regularly inspected and maintained by a suitably qualified person.
  • Visibility issues are identified and controlled, mainly if the lighting is poor.
  • Workers operating loading and unloading equipment have the appropriate high-risk work licences, as required.
  • Signage is in place, and barriers are erected where appropriate.
  • Drivers are aware of the proximity of powerlines.

Source: hcamag

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