Working with or around mobile plant

Safety Alert | 30/01/2014

Mobile plant, such as forklifts, elevating work platforms, delivery vehicles, order pickers, earth moving equipment, prime movers and cranes, have the potential to seriously injure or kill people if they run into them. The purpose of this alert is to remind officers and workers of persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) of risks associated with mobile plant in the workplace, and to provide advice on appropriate controls for traffic management.

Background

In the last five years in NSW, 10 workers have been killed and over 2000 workers have been injured in incidents involving mobile plant, across various industries. In just the last six months, four workers were killed when they were struck by moving plant, while one plant operator was killed when they collided with other mobile plant. Another died when they collided with a fixed object.

WorkCover NSW has already issued a safety alert and a code of practice outlining the risks and hazards of mobile plant on construction sites. At the time, these publications were targeted primarily at the construction industry. However, working with or around mobile plant is a potential risk at any workplace with mobile plant.

Action required

Work health and safety legislation requires PCBUs to ensure that risks to the health and safety of workers and others due to mobile plant (including vehicles) are eliminated or, if this is not possible, minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. PCBUs must consult with workers when they identify hazards and make decisions about ways to eliminate or minimise risks.

PCBUs must also provide workers and others with adequate information, training, instruction or supervision to protect persons from plant-related risks. They must ensure that workers understand site specific safety policies and procedures for their workplace, including any traffic management policies or procedures. This includes workers of other PCBUs who share or utilise the workplace (eg other trades, delivery drivers), and may also apply to visitors to the workplace.

Specific control measures

Effective traffic management procedures should be developed to suit the unique requirements of each individual workplace. The nature of the workplace can determine not only the type and effectiveness of control measures that can be implemented, but also how often these control measures should be reviewed to ensure that they remain effective.

Most non-construction workplaces tend to be stable in both site layout and work processes. At these sites, it is usually reasonably practicable to implement engineering type controls rather than relying on administrative controls. Similarly a stable workplace will need to review the control measures less often than a workplace that is constantly evolving (in terms of site layout or work processes) – for example, a construction site.

Part 3.1 of the WHS Regulation specifies the manner in which risks to health and safety in the workplace must be managed. This applies to managing the risk of mobile plant, which can be done using the following risk management process.

  1. Identify the traffic hazards. This should be done in consultation with workers and mobile plant operators, and should include:
    • identifying where mobile plant (including vehicles) is in use
    • identifying where mobile plant might interact with pedestrians or other mobile plant
    • identifying potential collision areas with people, other plant or objects.
  2. Eliminate the risk if possible (and practicable). This could be done by:
    • designing the workplace layout so that vehicles and pedestrians are separated (eg separate site entry points, overhead pedestrian walkways)
    • scheduling work so that vehicles and pedestrians are not operating simultaneously in the one area.
  3. If elimination isn’t possible, minimise the risk as much as possible. Develop a traffic management plan and provide training and instruction to all affected workers and visitors. Control measures within the traffic management plan could include, but are not limited to:
    • substituting mobile plant with other plant that has less risk (eg replacing a forklift truck with a pallet jack, if appropriate for the loads and site layout)
    • using bollards, barriers, safety rails, exclusion zones etc to separate pedestrians from moving plant and vehicles
    • using audible and visible alarms to identify moving plant (eg reversing alarm, flashing lights)
    • planning the site’s layout to minimise plant movement (eg drive-through access to minimise reversing, locating loading areas close to storage areas)
    • establishing traffic flow patterns, developing right of way procedures, providing signage and implementing speed limits
    • using spotters or dedicated traffic controllers
    • restricting access to essential personnel only
    • using high-visibility garments.

    At most sites, a combination of control measures will be required to effectively manage the risks associated with mobile plant.

  4. Maintain and review control measures. Control measures need to remain effective, particularly if the workplace is changing. Systems should be in place to:
  • assess the effectiveness of current control measures
  • allow reporting and feedback on the effectiveness of the control measures
  • ensure workers are implementing control measures correctly
  • identify upcoming changes to the workplace environment (layout, shared services etc) or work procedures (new equipment or processes, worker training etc) before they occur, and assess the potential impact on control measures
  • identify and assess possible alternate control measures (eg new technology).

Further information

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