Roadblocks reveal continuing problems with rest breaks

By: Graham Gardiner


A WorkSafe roadblock exercise at Carrabin near Merredin in Western Australia this month has revealed a continuing neglect of rest

A WorkSafe roadblock exercise at Carrabin near Merredin in Western Australia this month has revealed a continuing neglect of rest breaks for commercial vehicle drivers.

The joint roadblock was conducted by WorkSafe inspectors and WA Police, with assistance from the State Emergency Service, Merredin Roadwise, the Shire of Westonia and South Australia Transport Safety Compliance.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne says the operation found that transport companies were generally complying with the laws for commercial vehicles, but rest breaks were still a cause for concern.

"I’m pleased to know that there is general compliance with the laws, but it’s disappointing to find that the mandatory rest breaks are still not being taken in a lot of cases," she says.

"We must keep in mind that fatigue remains a significant occupational safety and health issue in the commercial transport industry, and that rest breaks are essential to safely undertake long-distance driving."

A total of 225 commercial vehicles were stopped at the Carrabin roadblock, with 12 improvement notices and 10 prohibition notices issued to drivers who had not had the mandatory seven-hour rest break.

In addition to these notices, inspectors will follow up with another 90 transport companies on other fatigue-related issues such as medical checks for drivers, training of drivers and keeping proper records.

"Notices were issued where rest breaks had not been taken, including 10 prohibition notices requiring drivers to pull over for the required rest breaks immediately," Lyhne says.

"A comprehensive code of practice for the management of fatigue has been in operation in WA since 1998 – updated in 2003 when the regulations came into effect – so transport companies have now had close to five years to comply with the laws.

"There seems to have been a steady increase in understanding of the fatigue laws, and it does seem that the industry has come to grips with the fact that the laws are there to ensure that commercial vehicle drivers are given sufficient rest.

"But we are still finding far too many instances of drivers not having had sufficient rest, and it is worth reminding the industry that the human body has limitations and adequate sleep and rest is essential.

"These roadblocks are an excellent example of cooperation between agencies, with valuable assistance provided to WorkSafe’s inspectors by other agencies such as WA Police and Merredin Roadwise and the SES who assist by providing hospitality and equipment.

"WorkSafe inspectors were stationed at the WA/SA border and SA Transport Safety Compliance at Ceduna, ensuring that inspectors could properly time drivers’ trips.

"We intend to continue closely monitoring the commercial transport industry for some time to come."

Further information on fatigue and copies of the code of practice can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 9327 8777 (a charge of $3.30 applies for hard copies of the code), or on the website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.

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