Workplace transport can be described as any work-related activity that is carried out using vehicles such as forklift trucks, cranes, and cars. Employers must be aware of the risks involving workplace transport and implement the correct control measures.
Workers can come to harm during loading or unloading activities and getting into or coming out of vehicles. The risks of workplace transport can be increased by both environmental and human factors. For example, adverse weather conditions can cause even the most seasoned operator to lose control of a vehicle. At the same time, too much workplace stress can lead to loss of concentration.
Training employees on the risks associated with workplace transport, how to use vehicles safely, and how to carry out risk assessments, is necessary to prevent accidents and incidents. Training will ensure that those who use workplace transport are competent to do so.
Industries with heavy use of vehicles such as agriculture, retail, and construction are where the most serious accidents occur. Twenty workers lost their lives due to being struck by moving vehicles in 2019/20 according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This makes being struck by a moving vehicle one of the top three main reasons for workplace fatalities.
In order to keep employees safe, employers must make sure that they understand the hazards that arise from keeping and using vehicles in the workplace. To do this, a workplace transport risk assessment needs to be carried out. It should consider the likelihood of harm to employees and anyone who may be harmed by vehicles in the workplace, what controls are in place, and what additional measures are needed.
An observation of the working environment should be undertaken by those assessing the risk. Factors to consider include:
- What activities require the use of a vehicle?
- How do employees get into and out of vehicles?
- Are there any blind spots?
- What is the speed limit within the assessed area?
- Where are vehicles parked/stored?
- Where is re-fueling carried out and by whom?
- If vehicles are battery powered-how and where are vehicles charged?
- What pedestrian/vehicle segregation is in place?
- Is there adequate signage?
- How are traffic routes marked?
- What personal protective equipment is worn by operators?
- Additional hazards such as lighting and exposure to the elements
The assessment should consider the driver, the site, and the vehicle and is best completed with those who are exposed to the risk.
Getting workers who work with and around the vehicles to contribute to the risk assessment is a good idea.
Workplace transport controls should be shared with workers once when they are complete. Reviews will be needed anytime there is a change in the working environment, such as a re-designed warehouse, new vehicles are introduced, or after there has been an accident.
The key to preventing accidents involving workplace transport is to segregate vehicles and pedestrians in the working environment. Employers should look at the areas within the working environment where employees, visitors, and members of the public are likely to interact with vehicles and ensure that suitable segregation measures are in place.
Signage, alarms, gates/barriers, zoning and specific walkways are all measures that can be used to segregate vehicles and people. Adequate lighting is also beneficial for both the operators of vehicles and those who work in areas where vehicles are used.
On-site safety briefings and inductions should be carried out for those who work in areas of the business where vehicles are commonplace. Just as on public roads, it is important that pedestrians are aware of the risks they are exposed to and how to remain safe.
Regular inspections of the working environment and the vehicles used need to be carried out. Property damage, such as potholes, must be corrected swiftly to prevent accidents and damage to vehicles. Defective vehicles must be taken out of use until they are fixed and safe to operate again.
All of these factors should be included in a workplace transport safety checklist. The checklist should be completed by a member of staff that understands the dynamics of the environment and any associated hazards.
Workplace transport is not just for the working environment. Any vehicles operated by external operators near or off site must be accounted for, such as delivery drivers or other visitors coming to your site.
You must, of course, also assess the risks of any off-site vehicle operation. This may include delivery drivers of your own organisation, or simply the driving a of a company car. Whatever the mode of transport, the risks they are exposed to must be assessed. In addition to the physical risks, they are lone workers and this must be highlighted in the risk assessment.
A workplace transport policy that states the company’s intentions to prevent transport accidents and sets out the roles and responsibilities of those that manage vehicle operators, will show a level of commitment. It is important that the policy is circulated, enforced, and reviewed accordingly. An accompanying workplace transport plan will help to flesh out the points addressed in the policy.
HSG136 – A Guide to Workplace Transport, is the HSE’s guidance document on how to keep people safe where vehicles are used for work purposes. Employers can use this document when creating policies, transport safety rules, and risk assessments. It will help to comply with the law.
Workplace transport safety should be a recurring agenda item at your health and safety committee meetings and feature in discussions at team meetings so that any safety matters that arise can be identified and dealt with. Those that are exposed to the risks of using vehicles must be given the opportunity to raise any concerns they may have or ideas on how to do improve safety measures.
Driving qualifications must be checked regularly and employees prohibited from using vehicles if they are unable to provide valid certification. In-house testing may be needed to check whether operators of vehicles and those who may be at harm from their actions are not at additional risk of the adverse effects of drugs and alcohol.
Workplace vehicles include:
- Fork Lift Trucks
- Push bikes
Each of these vehicles have their purposes as well as their unique maintenance requirements. Operating them comes with differing levels of competence, for example an employee who has a full driver’s license and can operate a car would still need to receive training on how to safely drive a bus or van for work purposes. For vehicles such as cranes and fork lift trucks the training will be even more specialised.
While workplace transport remains one of the leading causes of fatality at work, the rate of incidents has seen little change over the past few years, according to the HSE. Struck by a moving vehicle accounted for 20% of all deaths in 2019/20, while the storage and transportation sector accounted for around 10% of fatalities. Data on non-fatal workplace transports was not available.