Health & Safety & Vehicles in The Workplace
Posted By Kerry Budworth on 2015-11-15 16:12
Vehicles in the workplace continue to be a major cause of fatal and major injuries in the United Kingdom. The HSE reports that every year there are over 5000 incidents that involve some sort of transport in the workplace. Around 50 of these incident result in fatalities. It is obvious from the figures that vehicles in the workplace need to be covered by strong health and safety planning to manage risk associated with their function.
Your duties as an employer
By law, employers must know what hazards and risks are in their workplaces, they must also take steps to eliminate or reduce these risks. The onus is on you as an employer to identify health and safety requirements in relation to all transport in the workplace. You need communicate these requirements to all stakeholders, including employees, suppliers, hauliers, and agency and contract drivers.
You must put systems in place to check that any agency, contract workers and delivery drivers meet the safety requirements. Think about health and safety before you make any changes in the workplace, for example, using new vehicles or changing in how the work is done. To manage the risks of transport in the workplace, you need to consider three areas:
- Safe work site
- Safe vehicle
- Safe driver
The initial step you need to take to ensure that you can meet health and safety in the workplace requirements is a full risk assessment. In this article we will look at the risk assessment process and discuss the things you should cover.
The Risk assessment
As we said, by law, employers and self-employed people must assess the risks to anyone who might be affected by their work activity. They must also take appropriate preventive and protective steps to control these risks. These requirements apply to all activities in the workplace, including any involving transport.
Legal requirements of a risk assessment?
A risk assessment must be a thorough and measured assessment of what if anything in your workplace or in your work processes, could cause harm to employees or the people they come in contact with. By law, a risk assessment must be ‘suitable and sufficient’. In essence, you must be able to prove that the assessment and the health and safety strategies put in place are good enough to protect people from harm that you can predict.
To meet these requirements your risk assessment needs to be thorough. When done correctly it will provide you with the information you need to control risks in the workplace. It needs to be an accurate assessment of the risks, because it will form your understanding of how serious risks are, and how much effort and cost you need to dedicate to control them. If your organisation employs five or more people (including managers), you must write down significant findings from the risk assessment. There are five steps to complete a risk assessment listed on the HSE website, they are:
Let's look at those steps in Detail.
Identifying the hazards
It is recommended that you look at all work activities that involve vehicles, both your own and any visiting ones over a reasonable period of time. This could be over the course of a day, a week or a month. This time should be taken in order that you can build up a clear picture of all vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the workplace. Doing this ensure that there is less opportunity for you to miss something important. List all of the activities that you know will happen in your workplace. Think along the lines of deliveries in, loading of vehicles, collection of waste etc. You can do this by watching the workplace and noting the following:
- where vehicles are
- what drivers are doing
- how they are doing it
- why they are doing it
Look for areas where moving vehicles are in the same space as pedestrians or people working. Try to include every task you can think of, including those that happen at quiet times, that don't happen very often or that take place off-site such as delivering to a customer's site. Try to list all the vehicles that visit your site, and make a note of why, and what they do. Consider when and where that these events occur and what else may be happening and who else may be in the area at the same time. This helps to identify what the risks to health may be. Identifying those risks to health and safety is done by assessing each of the activities associated with transport and asking yourself what are the possible dangers, and what is causing them? There are four main kinds of accidents that involve workplace transport:
- people being struck by or run over by a vehicle
- people being struck by something falling from a vehicle
- people themselves falling from vehicles
- vehicles overturning
Concentrating on these particular dangers should allow you to assess the risks inherent in vehicle use in your workplace. Prioritise the risks, identify and deal with significant hazards as they are most likely to cause serious damage, or cause harm to several people. HSE make an excellent site inspection checklist available and it gives clear indication of the sort of questions that you need to ask. When you are looking for transport hazards, look at:
- features of your workplace (such as how routes are laid out and whether they are in good condition)
- the vehicles themselves
- the actions of the drivers and others who are near to vehicles
As we said earlier, think site, vehicle, driver, you should also consider how things change at different times of the year or in inclement weather. For instance:
- drivers being dazzled by strong sunlight at times of the year when the sun is low in the sky
- bad visibility in a loading area when deliveries are made at night
- the effects of strong gusts of wind on people working high up on the outside of vehicles
- heavy rain, mist, snow, ice or frost.
Make sure that you include any hazards that you have already identified and have precautions in place to prevent the hazard from harming anyone. Ask employees and other people who work on your site in the process, ask drivers, supervisors and any other employees at the site for their views. This can help you to identify problems and often they may in fact offer their ideas for solutions.
Identify who might be harmed and how
An important step is to identify who may be harmed by the hazards you have identified. Obviously transport incidents involve drivers, remember however, that can include both those employed by you and employees of other companies who are visiting your site. Include everyone who may be at your site, employees, contractors, subcontractors, customers, part-time employees, cleaners, maintenance staff, visitors and members of the public. Consider which of these people are likely to be near to vehicles, and why?
The risk posed by each hazard need to be assessed in the terms of the chances that somebody will be harmed and how serious that harm could be. High risks are ones where someone is very likely to be harmed or where the harm is likely to be serious (or both). In essence you are trying to identify how likely it is that an accident will happen and, if it does, how severe the injury is likely to be. Transport accidents tend to be serious incidents, or at least have the potential to be serious. Higher risks include both:
- accidents that are very likely to happen, regardless of outcome
- accidents that, however unlikely, could cause serious harm.
Once you have decided how much risk a hazard is causing, you can think about controlling the risks of injury. Ask yourself, what can we do to reduce this risk and are those measures enough. Even if you have taken measures to reduce particular risks, you should ask yourself if the risks are acceptably low.
Eliminate or reduce the risks
If it is possible, you should always try to eliminate risks rather than reduce them. Always consider is there a way of doing things that makes sure the risk never occurs. If you cannot remove the problem, try to reduce the risks.
Ways to reduce risk
There are several ways that you may be able to reduce the risks, lets look at the actions that the HSE recommend.
- Instruct and train employees to take care, to use work equipment safely, and to use personal protective equipment. However, do not rely on this to keep them safe if there is more you can do.
- Where possible, change the layout of the workplace or use vehicles with appropriate safety features (for example, have separate pathways for pedestrians, use road humps, or use vehicles with speed limiters). You should also set up safe systems of working (for example, enforce speed limits).
- Prioritise the improvement measures you have identified based on the level of risk you have decided each hazard poses, and set a realistic date for each action.
All of these steps can help you to reduce risks to a safe level or remove risks entirely.
Record your findings
By law, if your organisation employs five or more people, you must record the significant findings of your assessment. Record the hazards and the steps you are taking to deal with them in writing. This a useful part of any risk assessment and it is also proof of your process. You must also tell your employees, including any safety representatives, about your findings. This can be done more easily with a written record.
Review Your risk assessment
Just because you have done a risk assessment does not mean your work is finished. You should review the risk assessment on a regular basis to check that it is still relevant. Don't forget that a review is important at times of change when new hazards may emerge, for instance:
- when you introduce new vehicles
- when you change the traffic routes
- when you change the nature of the work being undertaken.
Assess risks before you make any significant changes in your workplace or your work processes. This continuous approach will help you to keep risks as low as possible. Make sure you keep the risk assessment up-to-date with working practices and equipment. if you have any questions or you are looking for health and safety services in Leicester or across the UK, don't hesitate to call us on 01455 234 600 or contact us online.