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Fatal roadside incident

In April 2022, two motor mechanics were repairing a broken-down bus on the roadside. Tragically, a passing vehicle hit the bus and both men were killed.

Investigations are continuing.

Safety issues

Broken down vehicles by the roadside can pose considerable safety risks. These are particularly prevalent when vehicles and people come together such as when towing is needed.

Source: SafeWork NSW

In addition, heavy vehicle recovery and repair can be high risk due to the nature of the work, environmental conditions, equipment requirements, time constraints and location of the immobilised vehicle.

Ways to manage health and safety

Taking steps to manage risks is a condition of doing business in Queensland. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business. If an incident occurs, you'll need to show the regulator that you’ve used an effective risk management process. This responsibility is covered by your primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks in your place of work. The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. It’s a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks. You must work through the hierarchy of controls when managing risks, with the aim of eliminating the hazard, which is the most effective control.

Possible control measures to prevent similar incidents

PCBUs are required to control the risk associated with vehicle repair and recovery at the roadside. Implementation of a safe system of work to manage the potential risks associated with inspection, repair and recovery of vehicles should be done by the PCBU in consultation with workers. The safe system of work needs to include documented risk assessments to control the risks when working on, near or under vehicles at offsite locations.

A safe system of work can include, but is not limited to the following examples:

  • if a vehicle does break down, consider having it towed to a workshop for repairs to be done in a controlled environment
  • exclusion zones should be established around vehicles being recovered and adjoining areas to prevent people from approaching (the size of the exclusion zone should be based on a written risk assessment and may include areas that the breakdown mechanic, roadside assistance or other workers are not to enter due to proximity to active traffic lanes)
  • the service vehicle should be positioned to provide added traffic control and visual awareness of the site to any passing drivers.
    • the vehicle should also be parked slightly over and at a 45-degree angle to the breakdown vehicle to enhance visibility and provide a physical barrier between the work area and passing traffic (to be seen from a distance, a service vehicle should be a bright distinctive colour with retro-reflective markings, including the inside of ute trays and cabin openings, plus a combination of warning lights and signs should be prominently used to warn motorists of a roadside activity).

Source: Truck emergency breakdown and roadside safety – WorkSafe Victoria 

  • development and use of safe work procedures that describe vehicle repair and recovery tasks that identify the hazards and document how the task is to be performed to minimise the risks. You then need to ensure workers are instructed, trained and supervised in these procedures. This can also include but is not limited to ensuring drivers and other workers know what actions they are required to take in the event of a vehicle breakdown. For example:
    • pull the vehicle off the road where possible
    • turn on vehicle’s hazard lights
    • apply (or set) the vehicle’s park brake
    • mark the area with portable warning triangles (or similar)
    • use (or set) wheels chocks.
  • ensure worker training, experience and competency is appropriate for the nature and complexity of the tasks to be carried out (workers should not carry out repairs on a vehicle unless they have appropriate training and are able to identify the risks related to working on the roadside)
  • procedures and training should identify situations where it is necessary to stop work until safe access for any repairs and recovery can be established (this will depend on the proximity of the vehicle to active traffic lanes and the nature of the work to be done)
  • wearing suitable personal protective equipment such as high visibility clothing and steel cap boots.

Depending on the circumstances, you must also follow any applicable road rules.

Administrative control measures and PPE rely on human behaviour and supervision. If used on their own, they are least effective in minimising risks. The control measures you put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned.

More information

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