Archive, Industry News

Opinion: supporting those behind the wheel

Tackling risks and keeping our drivers on the road and on the job


We tend to think of them as indefatigable road warriors but, in reality, truck drivers are subject to greater health and safety risks than other occupations.

The figures are sobering. According to 2012 data the road transport fatality rate was 12 times the national average, and while transport workers made up only 2 per cent of the population, they represented 18 per cent of work fatalities.

These statistics are why Safe Work Australia has targeted the freight and logistics sector with the aim of reducing injuries by 30 per cent and fatalities by 20 per cent by 2022.

This gets complicated because risks come in many forms from personal injuries to simply being sedentary for extended periods of time, but if you’re using sub-contractors you can insist that your contractors meet required work health and safety standards.

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) is calling for a national safety management system-based accreditation process that would also take into account a business’s financial ability to comply with operating standards, including electronic aids and in-cab monitoring.

Read Roz Shaw’s advice on how best to tackle insurance, here

Technologies can reduce the likelihood of collisions through systems such as external and internal facing cameras, electronic stability control and autonomous emergency braking, while fleet maintenance software helps you stay on top of vehicle servicing.

Research findings from a broad European study of 21 vehicle safety technologies, based on a range of electronic data-reporting systems, found that:

collision probability could be reduced by 10 per cent for fatalities as well as injuries

the benefits outweigh costs by a factor of seven

behavioural changes achieved by in-cab monitoring, for example, could minimise the risk and severity of accidents and repair costs by as much as 25 per cent.

A recent survey by Teletrac Navman indicated the use of telematics could also curb speeding and prevent driver fatigue. Electronic log books help ensure rest period intervalsare observed and in-cab monitoring systems deliver a tangible means of improving safety records and fleet efficiency.

Workplace awareness

Nearly half of WorkCover claim are strains or injury to the neck or back. Falls or slips from heights are the cause most workplace fatalities and serious injuries, while repetitive strain injuries are usually caused by sedentary occupations that involve repeated movements.

What this means is that truck drivers are at risk from both loading and unloading activities, as well as their long hours behind the wheel. These are issues that need to be addressed by a work safety management system. Their return to work after injury is a crucial time in managing staff to prevent further injury. An immediate return to normal activities isn’t always possible and can make a health condition worse.

Managing your workplace safety is an important factor in reducing WorkCover claims and ensuring workers’ safety. Having a set of guidelines that cover the full range of employee activities and provide protocols to be followed and observed by both managers and workers is imperative. Practicing what you preach reinforces the discipline of safety in your business. Some examples might be drills, safety huddles, refusing to accept corner-cutting practices and insisting things are done by the book.

Gallagher has a team of experienced experts who can help you to create a work safety management plan and also provide assistance with return to work programs. Without these you run the risk of increased WorkCover premiums, down time and litigation.

You’ll probably find the process of identifying the risks your workers face and what their rehabilitation options will help you come up with solutions, developing strategies and identifying areas where technologies could provide the answer.

Remember, your people are – even if that’s just you and your truck ‒ your biggest asset and are worth taking care of.

Roz Shaw is Head of Transport at international insurance broker Gallagher, and the former CEO of Hawkins Road Transport Pty Ltd.


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