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Working around mobile plant during construction of roadworks and related infrastructure

Issued: 17 December 2010
Last Updated: 17 December 2010


The purpose of this alert is to highlight the hazards and risks to workers performing traffic management and road construction work on roadways, following two recent fatalities. The information provided is designed to assist employers, self employed people, principal contractors, clients and project managers to meet their obligations under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995.


Two traffic controllers were fatally injured in separate locations on 15 November 2010 when they were struck by reversing trucks at civil construction roadwork sites.

The first instance involved a traffic controller working on a site near Mackay. The traffic controller was positioned on the pavement area at an intersection to direct traffic around the bitumen spray seal operations. Trucks carrying pre-coated screenings were reversing along the road to the stockpile area for reloading. The worker was struck and suffered fatal injuries.

The second incident involved a traffic controller who was struck and fatally injured by a reversing tipper truck. The truck was delivering asphalt for road surfacing operations on Stafford Road north of Brisbane at night. The truck was fitted with an operating reverse beeper and reversing light at the time of the incident. The truck was also fitted with an external rear mounted reverse camera that was not operating at the time of this incident.

Contributing factors

These incidents are associated with the hazard of plant coming into contact with traffic control workers and other workers sharing the same work zone on road construction sites.

The risk to workers increases when mobile plant operators fail or are unable to see workers in close proximity. Risk also increases when the operator's line of sight is impaired due to direction of travel or size and shape of plant.

Action required

Control measures should be selected in accordance with the hierarchy of controls. Higher order controls that substitute, isolate or engineer out the risk should be selected in preference to an administrative control. In practice, a combination of higher and lower order controls will normally be adopted to appropriately manage the risk.


This involves controlling the hazard at the source. Examples may include:

  • removing plant and people from the same work area by changing work processes
  • using traffic lights instead of a traffic controller to control traffic at roadwork sites.


This involves replacing the hazard with another that has a lower risk. An example may include replacing an item of mobile plant, which has a restricted field of vision to one that has a clear field of vision.


This involves removing or separating people from the source of the hazard. Examples may include:

  • using physical barricades
  • using exclusion zones that are enforced and clearly marked
  • segregating the work processes through distance and time; for example allowing earthworks to finish before survey begins.


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
  • an externally triggered emergency brake control that will stop the vehicle prior to coming into contact with an object or person
  • 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
  • audible warning devices activated when the vehicle is reversing.


This includes policies, procedures, signs and training to control the risk. Examples may include:

  • developing and implementing a traffic management plan for any traffic control activities being undertaken
  • developing and implementing a construction safety plan for the work being undertaken which addresses relevant risks on site including how control measures will be monitored and reviewed
  • developing and implementing a work method statement to identify any risks and implement controls measures to prevent or minimise the risk for any construction work being undertaken
  • organising, coordinating and monitoring work processes to reduce interaction between workers and mobile plant by:
    • developing a site access system or permit system that manages the movement of personnel on the worksite and that provides clear and concise communication process with all work groups in relation to risks and controls measures to be implemented
    • using an onsite controller to authorise and monitor the movement of mobile plant in all circumstances
    • using a spotter to control all reversing operations; the spotter needs to be in a position that does not place them at risk from contact with the reversing vehicle and the driver must always maintain sight of the spotter
    • 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 allows for communication between mobile plant and ground crew. This should include communication protocols relating to the location and direction of mobile plant and measures to manage issues with poor transmission and miscommunication
    • conducting pre-start meetings prior to commencing work to discuss all specific work site hazards and risks and control measures including the allocation of safety tasks and responsibilities
    • thoroughly checking safety devices and audible working alarms of mobile plant prior to commencing any work
    • ensuring people are fit for work; consideration needs to be given to fatigue, heat stress and cognitive ability to function effectively
    • ensuring worker training, experience and competency is consistent with the nature and complexity of the tasks being undertaken.

Control measures need to be regularly monitored and reviewed to ensure they are effective in preventing or minimising the risk.

Further information

The Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 (the Act) requires that a person (relevant person) who conducts a business or undertaking has an obligation to ensure:

  • the workplace health and safety of their workers
  • any other person affected by the conduct of the relevant persons business or undertaking
  • their own workplace health and safety.

This can be achieved, in part, by providing and maintaining safe plant, ensuring safe systems of work and providing information, instruction, training, supervision to ensure health and safety.

A relevant person may include the following:

  • employers
  • self employed persons
  • principal contractors
  • clients
  • project managers.

If a regulation exists for specific risks at your workplace, you must follow the Workplace Health and Safety Regulation 2008 to prevent or minimise the impact of the risk. The regulation sets out the legal requirements to prevent or control certain hazards, which might cause injury or death in the workplace.

The Regulation:

  • prohibits exposure to a risk
  • prescribes ways of preventing or minimising exposure to a risk
  • deals with administrative matters.

The section of the Regulation that applies in this circumstance relate to Construction Work in Part 20 of the Regulation.

The movement of powered mobile plant at a workplace is considered a high-risk construction activity and requires a work method statement to be produced for the activity undertaken.

Where there is a requirement to appoint a principal contractor for the work then a written construction safety plan must be completed before construction work starts.

Codes of practice state ways to manage exposure to risks. If a code of practice exists for a risk at your workplace, you must:

  • do what the code says; or
  • adopt another way that identifies and manages exposure to the risk; and
  • take reasonable precautions and exercise due care.

Codes that apply in this circumstance are the: