While the hazards associated with traffic movements on waste sites are obvious and well documented, workplace transport accidents relating to traffic movements are one of the most common causes of serious accidents and fatalities in the waste management sector, accounting for three in ten of all fatalities within the last five years.
While the number of deaths caused by being struck with a moving vehicle has gone down from 53% of waste industry fatalities in the five years from 2004/05 to 2008/09 to 29% in the last five years (2009/10 to 2013/14)1, it is still the biggest single cause of fatalities within the waste and recycling industry.
According to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 “every workplace should be organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate safely”. This means that wherever possible, all vehicles (including mobile plant) and pedestrians should be segregated from each other. However, in view of the activities carried out at waste sites, this may not always be practical; in which case a risk assessment should be carried out identifying the potential hazards and interactions between different types of vehicles and pedestrians, the control measures currently in place and what more needs to be done to protect people.
The following key issues should be considered as part of the risk assessment process:
• Pre-site entry;
• Safe site;
• Pedestrian safety for all workers and visitors;
• Safe vehicles.
Suitable control measures may include physical measures, such as road design and provision of signs, markings and barriers; and procedures, such as a formal traffic management plan. However a traffic plan will be of no use unless all operatives are aware of it and those responsible for managing traffic are competent to do so.
Reversing is a high-risk activity; wherever possible the site should be designed to eliminate or minimise need to reverse. Where reversing cannot be eliminated the following control measures should be considered:
• Designated reversing areas, separated from other work activities;
• Removing unnecessary vehicles, plant and pedestrians from the immediate vicinity;
• Good all-round vision is essential. For plant operators 360o visibility can be achieved by the use of a combination of mirrors and CCTV;
• Audible warning alarms. However, care should be exercised in their use and they should not be relied upon in isolation as they may not be heard by everyone. On a busy, noisy site, they can become part of the background noise or cause confusion if too many vehicles are reversing.
Guiding vehicles with a reversing assistant or banksman (signaller) is a high-risk activity and this option should only be used when it is not possible to implement other reasonably practicable measures such as improved site layout. Where a reversing assistant or banksman (signaller) is deemed to be essential for the safe running of a site:
• They should be adequately trained;
• They should wear appropriate, high visibility clothing;
• They should be in the driver’s sight at all times during vehicle movements;
• They should be at a safe distance when vehicles are moving or tipping;
• Signals should be understood by drivers before vehicle movements under the controller’s directions begin – their instruction should be obeyed by all drivers;
• Drivers should be instructed that if, at any time, the reversing assistant or banksman (signaller) cannot be seen – they should stop!
Despite the recent improvements made at many waste sites, there were still four fatalities last year – which to those bereaved families is four too many. By proper planning and organisation of waste sites, the aim of the waste industry for 2015 should be zero fatalities, from all causes.