Case study: improving safety policies and procedures

Ausam Terminals (AT) is a multi-user facility provider to the stevedoring industry and operates terminals in the majority of Australian ports. Its 44-hectare Port Kembla terminal caters for unloading and loading a range of goods, including motor vehicles and general cargo. There are about 80 truck movements in and out of the facility every day.

Macarthur Transport has a contract with AT that allows it to access the Port Kembla facilities.

What is the problem?
Macarthur hired a sub-contractor, Robb Transport Pty Ltd, to collect general cargo from the Port Kembla terminal and deliver it to a client in Melbourne. The cargo was stored on pallets and required a forklift to load the flat-bed truck. To assist the forklift operator, the truck driver climbed onto the tray to shift the cargo into position. When moving around the tray, the driver stepped backward and fell more than a metre to the ground, injuring his back and elbow.

A number of factors contributed to the incident, notably:

  • Fall protection was not available on the truck
  • workplace policies at the depot were not observed, such as ‘no climbing on loads’
  • no restrictions placed on drivers’ movements during loading/unloading
  • appropriate equipment not available to access the flatbed of the truck
  • poor communication between AT, Macarthur and Robb about the delivery of the load.

What was done to solve the problem?
In response to the incident, AT:

  • Reviewed their policies about climbing on loads during loading/unloading
  • changed their loading/unloading procedures
  • introduced site inductions for contractors
  • forbid contractors from accessing trailers and flat-beds during loading/unloading
  • trialled mobile stands to access trucks and loads
  • provided fall restraint equipment.

AT also highlighted the issue of falls from height at their 2013 transport forum, provided a site tour for attendees and demonstrated their new loading/unloading procedures.

Macarthur Transport introduced a ‘golden rules’ policy that forbids drivers from accessing their trailers and flat-beds when loading/unloading is taking place. They also updated their inductions for contract drivers.

Robb Transport, in consultation with their insurer, developed a return to work plan for their injured worker, who returned to work one month after the incident. They also developed a new risk assessment for drivers when working at heights with loads.

Business benefits
The benefit to the business in terms of fewer injuries and better control of the risk of falls will be determined in due course.

The average cost of a workers compensation claim in this industry is $3500. It also costs a business at least 10 times the cost of the claim in lost productivity, property damage, replacement costs and working days lost. The cost of the injury may have been in the order of $35,000 for at least one of the three businesses.

Key outcomes
Improved contractor induction and changes to policies and procedures around loading/unloading and working at heights will improve safety for drivers and other workers at the AT facility.

Mobile access platforms have been introduced, along with improved traffic management arrangements, safety zones for drivers, man boxes for forklifts, and elevated work platforms. These improvements will flow on to other AT facilities.

The contractor, Macarthur Transport, now has a stronger focus on safety arrangements in its contracts with AT.

Further information
For more information about workplace health and safety in the road freight transport industry, call 13 10 50 or visit the road freight transport section of our website.

Mobile phones a potential workplace hazard

A truck driver, distracted while using a mobile phone, knocked over a worker as he was reversing into the loading area, causing them serious injuries. The worker sustained multiple jaw fractures and a punctured and collapsed lung. Initially hospitalised for 10 days, he didn’t return to work for 14 months and required ongoing surgery.

This incident illustrates the sort of severe injuries that can occur when workers are distracted by using mobile phones in the workplace.

Many workplaces now ban mobile phones as they can be extremely distracting – especially due to the increasing popularity of smartphones with email and apps.

WorkCover Team Coordinator Anthony Nicholson said this was a good practice, particularly for high-risk work where workers needed to focus on the activity.

“But even in a relatively safe workplace, such as a warehouse environment, someone walking while checking their phone could easily slip or trip,” he said.

“Workers should consider the most appropriate times to use their phones, which, generally speaking, would be morning tea or meal breaks. What text message or Facebook update could be more important than your own safety?”

The risks of using phones while driving vehicles is well documented; research shows it increases the risk of crashing by at least four times, typically resulting in run-off-road or rear-end crashes.

Indicating rising concern, a guide warning workers about the potential danger of mobile phone distraction has been published by the American Training Resources website.

It states many workers do not give a second thought to texting as they complete daily tasks.

‘Just like other workplace distractions such as chattering with co-workers, horseplay or having our mind on something other than our task, being distracted by using the phone also causes us to lose our focus on the job at hand,’ the guide states.

It cites a tragic US incident, where a forklift driver checking a text message – contravening a company rule that phones be kept in lockers during shifts – struck and killed a co-worker.

Expecting ultrasound results to discover the gender of his wife’s baby, he was moving pallets in a storage yard when a text alert sounded. Excited, he momentarily looked down at his phone and failed to see a co-worker walk in front of his forklift.

The guide states that even if a business has no restrictions on mobile phone use, workers need to realise texting or updating social media while performing any task is dangerous: ‘Being distracted, even for a moment, could cause major injuries and property damage.’

To contact WorkCover NSW, call 13 10 50 or visit our website.

Flatbed falls are flat out avoidable

Between 2003 and 2012 there were 15 fatalities due to falls from trucks. The road freight transport industry has a high incidence of injury, in particular those injuries resulting from muscular stress, handling objects and falls from trucks.

These account for 44 per cent of claims and, with 158,000 workers employed in road and freight across NSW, it pays to be aware of the risks.

Responsibility for safety in this industry often falls to multiple parties with many injuries occurring at worksites that aren’t controlled by the transport operator or driver.

This makes it all the more important to have everyone involved on board with safe practices.

Talking through the risks with the delivery point or the transport operator is a great first step.

Falls from flatbed trucks are usually serious, and sometimes fatal, but there are several ways to stay safe while loading and unloading flatbeds; and these tips apply to small as well as large businesses.

The best way to stay safe is to stay on the ground at a safe distance from the mobile plant during loading and unloading.

You can keep your distance from the trailer by using equipment to help you load, by pre-configuring the load to suit the equipment you’re using or, by pre-slinging the load.

If you have aids such as a lead rope or reach pole, you can also employ load restraints that are accessible from the ground.

If you can’t work from the ground, try putting a guard rail or temporary platform in place, or use a retractable ladder or step with handrails.

Remember to keep both of your feet firmly on the ladder or step.

If you need to move around on the trailer, use travel restraints and if these measures are not practical, consider using a fall arrest system.

Although a flatbed or trailer is only one to two metres off the ground, if you fall awkwardly or hit your head, the consequences are serious.

Watch this video safety alert for clear tips on how to stay safe when working with flatbed trucks and trailers.

Call 13 10 50 to get a copy of your free ‘talk before you load up’ poster.

Breaking news

This month’s Breaking News includes information about safety coaches, DHL cargo bikes and a tyre innovation by Goodyear.

Get a free personal safety coach
Road freight transport companies (with 50 or fewer employees) that operate in the Sydney metropolitan area, Newcastle, Hunter, New England or Central West areas can apply for a free safety coach. A safety coach has the skills and experience to teach you how to comply with your workplace safety and workers compensation obligations.

Your safety coach will assess your workplace and help you develop an action plan to address any safety issues. They’ll return within six weeks to see how you have progressed. Register for your free safety coach now.
By engaging a safety coach, you also become eligible for a $500 small business rebate, which will help you introduce safety solutions into your business.

Pedalling into the future of short-haul trucking
Global parcel-delivery giant DHL is introducing a new essential transporter to its fleet. The company has replaced 33 trucks with 33 cargo bikes in the Netherlands, resulting in a massive reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions. Not to mention saving around $575,000 a year. Read more here.

No more flat tyres
Inflating your tyres too much can cause them to tear, while not having enough pressure can lead to punctures and damage to the suspension. With this in mind, Goodyear has created tyres that monitor pressure, and automatically inflate using just a regulator and a tube. Read more here.

Case study: increased safety, reduced costs

Backs Transport employs drivers to collect and deliver goods such as furniture, white goods and general freight. They were contracted by Goodfellows to deliver a fridge to one of their retail customers.

What was the problem?

Kevin Peterson, the delivery driver, was sub-contracted by Backs for this delivery, as Backs’ three drivers were all engaged in other deliveries. Kevin’s truck did not have a tailgate lifter. To get the fridge off the truck, Kevin ‘man-handled’ and manoeuvered it to the ground. Placing it on a trolley, unsecured, he then pulled it across a rough grassy area and, single-handedly, up a narrow flight of steps, nearly dropping it several times. Ignoring the homeowner’s offers of help, Kevin eventually got the fridge to the kitchen, albeit with a few dents and scratches. A number of factors contributed to the problem, notably:

  • Poor communication between Goodfellows and Backs about the delivery site – e.g. access, stairs, uneven ground
  • no risk assessment done by the driver about the site and the work to be done
  • no tailgate lifter and inadequate lifting and carrying equipment
  • not enough workers for the job
  • poor manual handling techniques.

What was done to solve the problem?

Unimpressed by Kevin’s work practices, the homeowner contacted Goodfellows and WorkCover to complain. This prompted an inspector to visit Goodfellows and, subsequently, Backs, to inform them that they both shared work health and safety responsibilities where contracting is involved.

Business benefits

The median cost of a workers compensation claim in this industry is $3500. When an incident occurs it costs a business at least 10 times the cost of the claim in lost productivity, property damage, replacement costs and working days lost. By looking at the incident and what could be put in place to prevent it happening again, it is possible the business would save an average of $35,000.

Key outcomes

  • Making sure at least two people are allocated to each job where deliveries include heavy items
  • securing loads onto trolleys when handling large bulky items
  • having a tailgate lifter available on all trucks used by the business, including hired trucks
  • providing information about the site where the goods are to be delivered – a map showing stairs, ramps, parking and ground conditions
  • having a ‘no delivery’ policy if the delivery site or conditions make it unsafe to complete the work
  • training workers in safe lifting and loading/unloading techniques
  • having a customer service policy when difficulties arise with deliveries.

For more information about work health and safety in the road freight transport industry, call 13 10 50 or visit the road freight transport section of our website.

Fleet safety: does size matter?

A survey of 50 Australian road freight transport operators has found that companies with larger fleets have poorer claim rates and rely more on setting criteria and rules for vehicles and drivers than their smaller, well performing peers.

The study by Transport and Safety Research at the University of NSW suggests that companies with lower claim rates focused more strongly on proactive risk assessment.

The study concludes that smaller fleet operators generally have fewer defect notices, do more safety-related checking and monitoring – e.g. safety audits, checking traffic conditions, speed limiting on poorer quality roads, checking accident history at recruitment – pay drivers for all time worked, actively monitor driver work and work load, and pay attention to policy and compliance by having a formal approach to policy breaches, seeking driver input into workplace health and safety and responding quickly to safety concerns.

Read the full report