Even as many people are working from home, it remains the case that the transport industry employs a vital part of the country’s workforce. It is also one of the sectors employing lone workers in large numbers.
Because of this, businesses are tasked with managing the unique hazards their employees face, whether that’s dealing with members of the public, driving for long periods without breaks, or travelling with valuable goods that could make them a target for robbery.
The HSE categorises ‘workplace transport’ as “any activity involving vehicles used in the workplace”. For the purposes of this article, lone workers in the transport industry could refer to:
Similarly, a lone worker does not need to be completely alone to be classed as such - just working without direct supervision. This is why those working for public transport such as trains or buses also fit into this category.
According to the HSE, there are more than 5,000 workplace accidents involving travel every year. Even more shockingly, 50 of these people are killed on average.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, it is the responsibility of employers to ensure that their employees and anyone else who could be impacted by their work is kept safe. For transport, the potential for members of the public to be affected by something like a crash or vehicle malfunction is significant.
Whether you need to look after employees who occasionally drive as part of their work or your job is to protect workers in the transport industry, this article aims to shed some light on some of the dangers employees face, and how to mitigate against them.
The lack of control over various environmental factors while out on the road can make maintaining health and safety more difficult than if employees operated from a single location. Still, you can achieve better lone worker safety within the transport industry if you pay attention to a few key things.
The most common hazards for lone workers in transport include (but are not limited to):
Accidents - Accidents on the road are perhaps the main issue for those in the transport industry, as this has the potential to put not just the employee in harm’s way, but also members of the public.
Breakdowns - Before you put any vehicle in rotation, you must first check to ensure it is fit for purpose. You would determine this via regular maintenance checks to avoid unfortunate breakdowns while out on the road as this would leave the driver stranded and in significantly more danger.
People - Largely because of the goods they are transporting, delivery drivers are at an increased risk of assault or robbery. Transport workers are also in more danger from attack due to their increased interaction with the public.
Stops along the way - Long distance drivers may be travelling overnight, which could require them to stop to rest part-way through their journey. It may also be necessary for them to leave the vehicle at a service station or another location, which introduces a host of new hazards you must take into account.
Driver fatigue - Tying in with the need to stop on-route, as well as protection against accidents, there must be measures in place to prevent drivers from working for too long. According to road safety charity Brake, it’s estimated that 10-20% of all crashes are caused by driver fatigue.
Regular risk assessments reviews - Before you can put any lone worker policy into practice, health and safety leaders must first conduct a risk assessment. This involves identifying the hazards faced by workers, whether on-site or out in the field, and deciding what measures will be put into place to mitigate these risks.
It’s possible that your company already has a health and safety policy in place, but it’s essential that you also conduct a separate lone worker risk assessment. This is because the environmental and social risks faced by remote or lone workers differ significantly from others. Any policy that does not assess their needs specifically will inevitably contain gaps.
Strict rest breaks - The best way to tackle driver fatigue is to create strict regulations around rest breaks. For long-distance drivers, this could introduce additional hazards such as potentially stopping in remote areas or exiting the vehicle and leaving both it and themselves more vulnerable, so these must also be mitigated against, potentially with something like a lone worker alarm (see below).
Training - While anyone operating a vehicle at work will already have be given significant training in the elements of their role, it’s vital to go over health and safety measures regularly. This training could include anything from how to perform basic maintenance on the vehicle (if safe to do so) to how best to sit for long periods without damaging posture.
To tackle the threat of violence at work, you could also introduce basic self-defence training that teaches workers techniques such as de-escalation tactics or how best to remove themselves from a situation.
Lone worker alarms - Lone worker alarms and devices give employees a sense of security when operating away from others. With SOS buttons that can be pushed if and when the driver finds themself in distress, injured or facing a threatening situation, they’re immediately connected with either a chosen emergency contact or a highly-trained operator.
These personal safety devices have become popular for fleet management and other sectors largely because they offer a more automated and reliable solution to problems that have typically been hindered by analogue methods.
Vatix works with businesses across industries to protect their lone workers with industry-leading devices, incident management and more. For more information about how we can help you boost the safety of your workers, click here or call us today.