H&S Considerations for Lone Transport Workers
Many businesses employ lone workers in their transport network, both on site and externally. The most recent guidelines from the Health & Safety Executive cover drivers of lifting vehicles as well as motorcycle and bicycle despatch riders. Then there are commercial pick-up and delivery drivers, long-distance haulage or rescue services, and public transport drivers of taxis, buses and trains. As far as the workplace risk is concerned, these employees are working without direct supervision, so they’re officially ‘alone’ – even when they’re transporting members of the public.
On the road
The actual driving has its own level of risk, involving weather and traffic conditions. Associated hazards include fatigue from driving for too long without breaks, and stress from dealing with clients or members of the public. Lone transport workers may be carrying valuable goods, making them a potential target for thieves, while public transport drivers may also be at risk of assault.
Breaking down becomes a more significant hazard for a lone transport worker, if it leaves them stranded and vulnerable while waiting for roadside assistance. Long-distance drivers who are parked up to rest may also be at risk. Not resting is an even greater hazard, as driver fatigue is known to be responsible for a significant percentage of road traffic accidents. The vehicles themselves offer a risk of major injuries: of 5,000+ workplace transport incidents recorded every year, 50 are fatal.
Lone transport worker training
Comprehensive training is essential for any employee in control of a vehicle, but especially for lone workers. Drivers should be well-versed in basic vehicle maintenance and the ergonomic stresses of sitting for long periods. They must fully understand the risks of mechanical or operator failure, and be aware of other factors which they can’t control. These include environmental hazards – like severe or unusual weather – with enhanced potential for accidents, and social threats such as criminal intent. Lone transport workers may be offered basic self-defence training, which could include de-escalation techniques or tactical retreat from a threatening situation.
Safeguarding your drivers
In order to mitigate or eliminate these risks, employers can initiate measures for the protection of lone transport workers. In the first instance, a thorough risk assessment must be carried out to identify all the potential hazards. These include the vehicles, the drivers and the geographical area in which they’ll be operating. The assessment must account for both on-site and external circumstances, as well as the risks inherent in working with a vehicle which may be subject to breakdown or failure, and which may impact or injure others.
You must build in a regulatory framework that ensures proper rest breaks, to avoid driver fatigue. This should also incorporate protection for the lone transport worker parked up in remote areas, or separating themselves from their vehicle. Lone workers may be issued with an automated security alarm, to summon immediate assistance if they’re injured, distressed or under threat.
If you’d like help assessing the significantly different environmental and social risks to lone transport workers, don’t hesitate to give us a call.