Vehicles as workplaces
Where an employee is using a vehicle to perform work the vehicle is considered to be a workplace. As a result, employers must ensure that the vehicle is safe and without risks to health. This duty extends to whatever vehicle is used to for the purpose of work, for example, an employee using their personal car, or providing their own car where they are paid an allowance by the employer (this is known as a 'grey fleet').
Risks and controls
Employees can be killed or injured in road transport crashes. Research shows fleet driving has an increased crash risk compared to non-fleet driving.
Speeding can increase the chance of an accident occurring, as well as the severity of the crash due to a decreased amount of reaction time as well as hitting an object harder.
Employers can reduce the risks of speeding by:
- fostering a workplace culture that makes it acceptable to be late for an appointment (to avoid speeding to arrive on time)
- enabling employees to plan their schedules based on driving within speed limits and factoring in possible delays
- implementing in-vehicle monitoring systems that can help prevent speeding, as well as ensure seat-belt usage and encourage safe driving
Drugs and alcohol
The use of drugs and alcohol impair the driver's ability to safely use a vehicle.
Drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.05 are twice as likely to be involved in a crash. The use of illegal drugs, such as cannabis and methamphetamines (ice) may also increase the risk of driver accidents and fatalities.
Side effects from prescription or other legal medications may also impact driver ability, and both employers and employees should be aware of the effects such medication may have.
An employer can reduce the risks of drug and alcohol use by:
- adopting a zero tolerance policy on illegal drugs and alcohol for work-related drivers
- requesting that employees who drive for work declare any medication they may be taking so a risk assessment of its effects can be conducted to ensure their safety
Fatigue is mental or physical tiredness that affects a person's ability to function.
Fatigue can impair performance by reducing attentiveness, slowing reaction times and affecting judgement.
Employees that perform shift work are more likely to be involved in a fatigue-related crash than other employees.
Fatigue is associated with both work-related and personal factors, such as:
- lack of sleep
- driving at times when you would normally be asleep
- sustained mental, emotional and physical effort, from things such as long hours of work and type of work being performed
- monotonous tasks, or tasks that require little mental effort
- roster patterns
- infrequent rest breaks
- medical conditions such as sleep apnoea and insomnia
- social and family activities outside work
- environmental stresses such as heat, noise, and vibration
Signs of fatigue, or micro-sleeping, while driving can include lane drifting, variations in speed, delayed reaction times and reduced concentration.
Individuals are unreliable judges of their level of fatigue and as a result, it is crucial that the employer minimises fatigue through appropriate planning and scheduling of work and driving.
An employer can reduce the risk of fatigue by:
- minimising night driving and, if necessary, enabling employees to sleep overnight in accommodation
- arranging for employees to share the amount of driving required
- enabling employees to use alternatives to driving, such as public transport or ride-sharing
- allowing more journey time so employees can schedule regular breaks
- encouraging drivers to take power naps of 15-20 minutes
Employer could also provide information on sleep and nutrition that may help reduce the instance of fatigue.
Mobile phone and technology use
The use of mobile phones and other technologies, such as smart watches, while driving affects the driver's ability to react to other vehicles, judge distances, and maintain a constant speed.
The use of handheld mobile phones while driving is illegal fully licensed drivers may use a phone to make or receive calls, use audio functions or perform GPS functions only if the phone is secured in a purpose-designed holder installed inside the vehicle, or if the phone can be operated without touching it.
Employers can reduce the risks of technology by implementing a workplace culture and policies that ensure drivers:
- may allow incoming calls to go to voicemail
- can set phones to silent or do not disturb while driving
- should only answer calls when their vehicle is pulled over and switched off or using hands free devices.
Driving on rough, unsealed roads, or roads subject to conditions such as snow, ice, fog, poor lighting or bushfires can increase the risk of road accidents.
An employer can reduce the risk of adverse conditions by:
- planning to use alternative routes, where possible
- rescheduling trips to times of less extreme or dangerous conditions
- training employees on the need to reduce speed and maintain safe distances from other vehicles
- providing information, instruction and training on driving techniques in adverse conditions, such as driving slowly in foggy conditions or the provision of defensive driver training
- using specialist vehicles or vehicle modifications suitable for the conditions
Distractions can divert the driver's attention and impact their reaction times.
Common in-vehicle distractions include passengers, drinking and eating, reaching for loose objects and personal grooming.
An employer can reduce the risk of in-vehicle distractions by:
- ensuring employees driving different vehicles receive instruction on the use of the different vehicle’s operation
- training employees to eat before or after driving and ensuring their schedules allow sufficient time for adequate meal breaks
- ensuring employees pre-set audio and climate controls before starting their journey
- securing any loose objects
- ensuring employees pull over and stop the vehicle before adjusting equipment, attending to personal grooming, or reaching for loose objects
- training drivers to ask passengers to help with tasks that could be distracting