In October 2019, a compact track loader (commonly known as a posi-track or bobcat) was moving spoil on a construction site when it reversed into a worker who suffered serious leg injuries.
Investigations are continuing to establish the cause of the incident.
Preventing a similar incident
The operation of powered mobile plant at construction sites exposes workers to a range of health and safety risks, including;
- the plant colliding or contacting people or objects such as workers, other vehicles or plant, energised powerlines
- the plant overturning
- objects falling on the operator of the plant
- the operator being ejected from the plant
People required to operate or work around powered mobile plant may also be exposed to excessive noise and vibration, dust, hazardous fumes and fall hazards. Powered mobile plant includes but not limited to earthmoving machinery (e.g. rollers, graders, scrapers and bobcats), excavators and mobile cranes.
The person with management or control of powered mobile plant at the workplace must manage the health and safety risks associated with the movement of traffic while construction work is occurring. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the project, including company officers.
Managing work health and safety risks is an ongoing process. Risk management involves four steps:
- Identify hazards – find out what could cause harm.
- Assess risks - understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening.
- Control risks – implement the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances.
- Review – asses control measures to ensure they are working as planned.
Once the risks have been assessed the next step is to control risks associated with the plant. These control measures are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest and are known as the hierarchy of control. A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must work through this hierarchy to choose the control or controls that most effectively eliminates or, where that is not reasonably practicable, minimises risks. Risk control measures include:
- Elimination - removing the hazard or hazardous work practices associated is the most effective way to control risks. For example, removing plant and people from the same work area by changing work processes. If this control measure is not possible the next steps can be considered.
- Substitution – substitute the plant for safer alternative plant. For example, consider replacing an item of mobile plant, which has a restricted field of vision to one that has a clear field of vision.
- Isolation – isolate workers from mobile plant. Examples include;
- using physical barriers
- organising the layout of the workplace to isolate pedestrians from mobile plant
- creating exclusion zones that are enforced and clearly marked
- segregating the work processes through distance and time, for example allowing earthworks to finish before surveying begins.
- Engineering controls - this involves changing physical characteristics of the plant or work area to remove or reduce the risk. Examples may include;
- reversing cameras that provide clear visibility of the area behind the mobile plant
- proximity detection technology within mobile plant that allows for monitoring of ground crew at all times by the plant operator
- re-design of plant to allow for clear line of sight
- plant has a warning device, such as flashing light or reversing alarm, to warn pedestrians and workers nearby.
- Administrative controls – this includes procedures, signs and training to control the risk. Examples may include;
- developing and implementing a traffic management plan and work method statements for high risk construction work, including any construction work that is carried out in an area or adjacent to an area at a workplace where there is movement of powered mobile plant
- obey any speed limits and ensure there is adequate distance for a safe stop
- avoid rapid acceleration, deceleration and quick turns
- organising, co-ordinating and monitoring work processes to reduce interaction between workers and mobile plant by;
- implementing measures where workers have clear sight of mobile plant operating and operators of mobile plant have a clear line of sight in the direction of travel
- providing equipment such as two-way radios that allow for communication between mobile plant and ground crew
- thoroughly checking safety devices and audible working alarms of mobile plant prior to commencing any work
- ensuring worker training, experience and competency.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) - any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable personal protective equipment. For example;
- the use of hard hats, steel cap boots and high visibility vest.
From July 2013 to June 2018, there have been on average 71 workers' compensation claims each year for injuries involving workers struck by mobile plant. Fifty-four per cent of these claims involved a serious injury requiring five or more days off work.
Between July 2014 and October 2019, there have been 747 notified events of people being struck, or at risk of being struck by graders, dozers, scrapers, excavators, bobcats, or other mobile plant in the construction industry. In the same period, WHSQ issued 302 statutory notices involving injuries or managing the risk of being struck by graders, dozers, scrapers, excavators, bobcats, or other mobile plant in the construction industry.
Prosecutions and compliance
In 2019, a company was fined $90,000 after a worker sustained serious leg injuries from being run over by a forklift. The investigation identified forklift operators were directed to switch off the reverse warning beepers at certain times as a noise abatement measure because of complaints made by neighbours. An inadequate traffic management plan for mobile powered plant and pedestrians was also in place. It had some pedestrian walkway markings but not in the immediate vicinity, and those that existed, were degraded and barely visible.
In 2015, a mobile plant operator was given good behaviour bond for a period of one year with a recognisance of $5,000 under s.31 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, and a training order under s.241 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 after a worker died as a result of being struck by a bucket truck. Two workers were in the wash bay area of a depot and maintenance shed when the person began reversing the bucket truck which has then crashed into one of the workers in the wash bay and killed him.
- Managing risks of plant in the workplace code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.57 MB)
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- Working in and around mobile plant – film
- Traffic Management: Guide for construction work - Safe Work Australia