Road and site safety review
Workplace traffic remains a major cause of accidents and is responsible for approximately 70 fatalities and over 2000 serious injuries every year. Forklift trucks account for approximately a quarter of all major injuries caused by workplace traffic but it’s certainly not only warehouses, construction sites and industrial premises that are affected by it. Almost all commercial premises have to think about how to manage workplace traffic, whether they’re dealing with deliveries, planning staff or customer parking areas or managing fleets of vehicles out on the road.Workplace traffic is a major issue for almost every UK workplace and is one of the most difficult hazards to eradicate according to Mick Gledhill who is in the unique position of being able to look at the problem from every angle.
As well as being one of Royal Mail’s 9400 drivers operating across the North East of England, Mick is the organisation’s Area Safety Representative for Bradford, Halifax and Huddersfield in a role that covers everything from assisting with risk assessments through to investigating accidents and he’s also a Trade Union Safety Representative for the Communication Workers Union.
Mick explains: “Traffic is a constant danger because in every single workplace there will always be deliveries being made or people going out to visit customers or suppliers. In Royal Mail’s North East region, which covers Berwick-upon-Tweed down to Lincolnshire, there are 4000 vans covering approximately 17 million miles every year, so it’s inevitable that accidents will occur and whilst we can’t change that, we can look at ways of minimising them.”
Research by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) supports Mick’s concerns and reveals that approximately 20 people are killed and 250 are seriously injured every week whilst using the road for work purposes. In addition car and van drivers covering 25,000 business miles a year have the same chance of being killed at work as those working in high risk industries such as construction or quarrying.
Mick says: “There are two main types of occupational vehicle related accidents. The first are caused by ‘workplace transport’ or vehicles driving on an organisation’s premises because they are delivering, collecting, carrying out maintenance work or even using customer parking areas. The second type are known as ‘occupational road risks’ and these are accidents that occur on public roads.
“At Royal Mail both are an issue because as well as having our fleet of vehicles out on the roads, we have members of the public visiting our depots to collect items of post and parcels as well as other delivery firms that we work in partnership with continually coming in and out of our sites.
“To tackle ‘workplace transport’ accidents we carry out regular risk assessments and whenever an issue arises we take action immediately. We also look carefully at any accidents that occur, to determine if we can prevent a similar situation arising again. This may be through traffic
calming measures such as speed ramps, improving visibility by installing mirrors and additional lighting, or adding signage around walkways and other pedestrian areas.”
Mick continues: “When it comes to ‘occupational road risks’ often the trends within Royal Mail mirror what’s happening on the roads in general. The UK’s roads carry heavy volumes of traffic and in challenging economic times competition increases meaning there’s even more pressure to meet deadlines and make deliveries. This can all affect the driver’s temperament which plays a big part in their driving style so this is a key factor that we always try to address. “We also determine which drivers are most at risk of having an accident by looking at how many miles they drive and at what times of day. Those most at risk will receive extra training which is often designed to be thought-provoking and contains hard hitting images and interviews with people who have lost family members to occupational road accidents.
“Finally we also look at trends that are emerging. For example a lot of accidents at Royal Mail occur at low speeds, when drivers are looking for addresses, so this is a key issue that we have been trying to tackle in recent years. Although it’s a long process it is a battle that we seem to be winning because last year accident numbers fell by 13 per cent and we’re hoping that we can reduce them by a further 15 per cent this year.”