OHS Management of Work Related Driving

Employers which require employees to undertake work related driving have duties under the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (‘OHSA’). Duties under Occupational Health & Safety (‘OHS’) law are more stringent and mere compliance with road traffic law is not necessarily sufficient to comply with OHS law. The OHS management of work related driving can be challenging due to the lack of control of the actions of other road users, which can place the health and safety of employees at risk.

Duties

General

Pursuant to sections 21, 23 and 26 of the OHSA, employers have several duties under the OHSA so far as is reasonably practicable, which include:

  1. maintaining workplaces without risks to health
  2. providing and maintaining plant or systems of work without risks to health
  3. maintaining workplaces in control without risks
  4. providing adequate facilities
  5. providing information, training and supervision
  6. not exposing others to risk
  7. ensuring means of entering and leaving workplace are without risk

In determining what is reasonably practicable, regard is had to the factors stated in section 20 of the OHSA.

The definition of workplace under the OHSA means a, ‘place, whether or not in a building or structure, where employees or self-employed persons work’. It is likely duties under the OHSA apply for work related travel and work performed on remote sites.

Consultation

Pursuant to section 35 of the OHSA, employers have a duty to consult with affected employees when identifying, assessing, controlling hazards or risks and when proposing workplace changes.

Incident Notification

Pursuant to sections 37 and 38 of the OHSA, employers have a duty to notify WorkSafe of notifiable incidents. Notifiable incidents relevant to motor vehicles include accidents resulting in:

  1. Death
  2. Immediate treatment as an inpatient in hospital
  3. Immediate medical treatment for serious head injury, eye injury, electrical shock, serious laceration

Pursuant to section 39 of the OHSA, employers have a further duty to preserve incident sites.

Risks of Work Related Driving

Work related driving can arise in a multitude of risks. The following risks can arise from work related driving:

  1. Serious injury or death arising from a fire or explosion during vehicle use
  2. Serious injury or death arising from a motor vehicle collision during vehicle use
  3. Serious injury or death arising from a pedestrian and motor vehicle collision
  4. Serious injury or death arising from carbon monoxide poisoning
  5. Serious injury or death arising from infectious disease
  6. Serious injury or death arising from falling objects on vehicle during vehicle use
  7. Serious injury arising from occupational violence
  8. Serious injury arising from falling out of moving vehicle
  9. Serious injury arising from slips, trips, falls while walking to access vehicle
  10. Serious injury arising from an electrical shock during vehicle use
  11. Serious injury arising from vehicle pinch points
  12. Musculoskeletal injuries arising from vehicle use

The severity of the risks can be significant which can result in a single or multiple fatalities. Employers should undertake risk management to identify, assess, and control risks arising from work related driving.

Assessing the Risks

In assessing the level of risk, the duration of exposure to the hazards is an important consideration. The greater the duration of exposure, the greater the level of risk. Certain risks arising from work related driving will be dependent on the amount of driving undertaken by employees. This can be measured by the distance travelled in kilometres or the duration of time spent in driving.

It is important to note the driving time will be impacted by vehicle speeds, traffic, travel routes, origin location and destination location of travel. Generally greater the driving time or the distance travelled, greater the level of risk.

Employers should measure the amount of driving their employees are undertaking to assess the level of risk.

Risk Controls

Control of risk is an important stage of risk management. Employers can implement a number of risk controls to manage the risks of work related driving. The following are examples of risk controls that can be implemented to manage the risks arising from work related driving. Note this is not an exhaustive list.

Eliminating & Reducing Driving 

Elimination of work related driving is the most effective risk control to manage the risks. Employers should consider if work related driving is necessary and if work related driving can be eliminated or reduced by utilising alternative methods. Alternative methods may include conducting meetings electronically, using public transport, or using taxi services.

Work related driving may be reduced by managing workloads to reduce driving. Employers can also direct employees to use toll roads to reduce the transit time.

Employers should also direct employees to avoid driving at times when the risks are higher. High risk times may include driving late at night or early morning or driving in hazardous weather conditions.

Controlling the Types of Vehicles Used

Employers can control the type of vehicles used for work related driving and use vehicles which reduce the risks of work related driving.

Minimum Vehicle Safety Standard

Employers can consider implementing minimum vehicle safety standards to prescribe the minimum safety standards for company or personal vehicles used for work related driving.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has published safety ratings for a range of new passenger vehicles. The program uses a rating system of 0 to 5 stars which indicate the level of safety a vehicle provides for occupants and pedestrians in the event of a crash. Vehicles with a safety rating of 0 offer the lowest protection, while vehicles with a safety rating of 5 offer the highest. Employers can consider specifying a minimum ANCAP safety rating for vehicles used for work related driving.

Where a vehicle does not have an ANCAP rating, a risk assessment should be undertaken to assess the safety features of the vehicle to determine its suitability.

A risk assessment should also be undertaken for vehicles suspected to be hazardous, the risk assessment should consider the following:

  • Hazards and risks associated with the particular vehicle
  • Vehicle safety inspection check
  • Vehicle age and mileage
  • Maintenance history
  • Existing damage

Employers can also specify minimum safety features for vehicles, which could include;

  1. Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
  2. Driver and passenger front and side airbags
  3. Power steering

Prohibited Vehicles

Employers can consider prohibiting certain vehicles which increase the risks of work related driving. This may include prohibiting the following types of vehicles:

  1. Bicycles
  2. Electric scooters
  3. Motorcycles including 2 or 3 wheels
  4. Convertible or open top vehicles without overhead protection
Vehicle Inspections

Employers should implement driver vehicle inspections for vehicles used for work related driving. The inspection should include checks of the critical safety features of the vehicle such as brakes, headlights, wipers, seatbelts, horn, tyres etc.

The frequency of the vehicle inspection should be determined by a risk assessment taking into consideration the risk controls implemented to manage the hazard of insufficient vehicle maintenance.

Vehicles should not be used which are identified to have an issue which compromises its safe operation.

Selection of Routes

Employers should require employees to select safer routes for work related driving where practicable. Safer routes will have the following characteristics:

  1. Physical barrier to separate oncoming vehicles
  2. Traffic lights at intersections
  3. Roadside barriers protecting impact against trees, light poles etc.

Employers should identify any dangerous roads that can be used for work related driving. Dangerous roads can be identified using the, ‘Black Spot Locations’ which are locations identified as dangerous by the Australian Government, based on data of historical motor vehicle collisions at that location. Employers should direct employees to avoid driving through these locations.

Maximum Working & Driving Periods

To manage the risk of fatigue, employers should specify the maximum working hours including driving time per day and week. Mandatory rest breaks should also be specified for long distance or long duration driving.

The maximum driving periods should be determined by a risk assessment, which should take into consideration, the travel route and any non driving work tasks performed by drivers.

Vehicle Maintenance & Servicing

Employers should ensure vehicles used for work related driving are roadworthy and undergo scheduled maintenance by a competent workshop. The vehicles should be maintained as per the manufacturer guidelines, or more frequently dependent on the vehicle use and the travel route. A risk assessment should be undertaken to determine the frequency of maintenance.

Driver Monitoring System

Technology is constantly advancing to assist employers to manage the risks from work related driving. Employers can implement driver monitoring systems to manage the risks of work related driving.

Driver monitoring systems can monitor the driver for signs of fatigue or alertness using a driver facing camera. The driver monitoring system can issue an audible alarm if an issue is detected.

Employers can also consider implementing a speed monitoring system to ensure drivers are complying with the speed limits.

Safe Working Procedure

Employers should develop, implement and train employees on a detailed safe working procedure to manage the risks arising from work related driving. The safe working procedure should inform employees of the hazards, risks and controls implemented to manage the risks associated with work related driving. The safe working procedure should include procedures for a motor vehicle accident and breakdown.

Safety Equipment

Employers should ensure vehicles are equipped with following safety equipment when used for work related driving:

  1. High visibility vest
  2. First Aid kit
  3. Safety cone or triangle
  4. Fire extinguisher
Ergonomics

Musculoskeletal injuries can arise from work related driving. This can occur due to improper seating setup, sitting for prolonged periods of time, exposure to sustained vibration, or improper manual handling lifting techniques.

Employers can implement ergonomic vehicle assessments for work related driving, to ensure the proper ergonomics of the vehicle workstation. The ergonomic vehicle assessment will include checks for body postures in relation to steering wheel, lumbar support, vibration, stepping into/out of vehicle, windscreen visibility check, and glare whilst driving.

Training

Employers should ensure employees are trained in safe working procedures associated with work related driving. Employers should also consider regular driving training for employees undertaking work related driving.

Training can include employees undertaking a ‘Defensive Driver Course’ or an appropriate course to ensure drivers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to drive safely.

Employers can also mandate employees to complete regular refresher training of road rules utilising the ‘VicRoads Road Rules Education Online Platform’, to ensure employees are regularly trained in the road rules.