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Cab safety critical in ‘contemporary workplace’

Is the cab an extension of the workplace? Fleet safety will become even more important, regulator warns

By Samantha Freestone | August 21, 2009

Is the vehicle cab an extension of the workplace? It’s only a matter of time before courts make that interpretation, one regulator warns, making fleet safety paramount.

John Merritt, the Executive Director of the Victorian occupational health and safety regulator WorkSafe, has urged operators to invest in the safest possible equipment to reduce potential hazards for drivers.

He says it is inevitable courts will be asked to interpret vehicles as an extension of the workplace.

“Forty percent of all accidents are vehicle related. In health and safety, the way the law is framed, it says you must create or supply a safe workplace,” he says.

“Vehicles are a contemporary workplace.

“The debate as to what constitutes a safe workplace allows us as the safety regulators to engage with operators to ask [these questions].”

Merritt was speaking at an event earlier this week which bestowed a five-star safety rating on Mercedes-Benz’s new Vito light commercial van – the first vehicle in its class to receive the top rating.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (AMCAP) rates every Australian vehicle on its safety features and crash integrity. Its Chairman, Lachlan McIntosh, believes the ratings are becoming more important to fleet operators.

“More and more we are finding the consumer asking for this information to incorporate into their tenders,” he says.

“We put our faith in Government, in manufacturers – we expect the regulations will cover things but unfortunately regulations are a bit slow.

“We publish our results so the public and customers can make up their own minds. It is the customer’s decision, but you need the information to make a choice.

“Today is a milestone at ANCAP. There aren’t many five-star safety rated cars on the market.”

ANCAP conducted frontal offset, side offset and pole crash tests to confirm the Vito rating last month. The pole test collision was executed at 29km/h, with an $800 side-airbag keeping the driver compartment intact.

Ken Matthews, the Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Commercial, says the van series was only conceived “10 or 11 years ago”.

“To meet the five-star rating in 10-11 years is fantastic,” he says.

“The van operator is on the road from early in the morning to late at night so there is a higher likelihood of that car being involved in a car accident.

“Safety ratings for commercial vehicles is definitely the direction to be going in.”

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