Driving heavy vehicles safely in poor road conditions

With significant rain and flooding occurring across Victoria, WorkSafe reminds employers to ensure their heavy vehicle drivers are safe and drive to the road conditions.

Shape
Published: 16 December 2022

Background

Flood waters are very dangerous as the water can rise quickly and move fast. Vehicles entering flood waters can lose traction, be washed away or become submerged. Never drive through flood water or on roads covered with large volumes of water.

Driving on rough and damaged roads where flooding has recently receded increases the risk of a collision, running off the road or vehicle roll-over.

Driving through in these conditions increases the risk of serious injury or death to the driver, passengers and others.

Safety issues

Safety issues when driving in flood water, include:

  • risk of drowning
  • vehicles losing traction, becoming unstable, submerged, or being washed away 
  • vehicle and occupants being struck by objects in the flood water
  • coming into contact with contaminated water

Safety issues when driving in heavy rain or on roads where flooding has recently receded, include:

  • driver fatigue and distraction from driving in conditions requiring greater concentration
  • increased risk of the vehicle being hit by other vehicles
  • increased risk of the driver being hit by another vehicle if broken down
  • damage to vehicles, including wheels, tyres, shock absorbers and suspension, which may affect the safe driving performance of the vehicle
  • vibrations in the vehicle can cause panels, attachments, couplings, and loads to loosen

Many sections of damaged roads have reduced speed limits. Ensure these limits are obeyed to prevent loss of control of the vehicle or damage.

Recommended ways to control risks

Employers need to control risks associated with driving.

Risks controls may include:

  • planning the driving route
    • check the VicRoads website for road closures and damage
    • avoid routes where flooding alerts are issued
    • consider if the route chosen is suitable for the truck, particularly where the trip requires the use of B roads. The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator provides details for road access and route planning
  • developing a traffic management plan for responding to emergency situations
  • ensuring employees and contractors are trained in how to respond to a roadside emergency. Training should include how to initiate the traffic management plan, such as:
    • selecting a safe location to stop 
    • setting-up warning signage behind the vehicle – where safe to do so
    • keeping themselves and other passengers safe, for example by:
      • remaining on the roadside behind barriers (if installed)
      • remaining seated in the vehicle with the seatbelt fastened
      • avoiding being behind or between vehicles where persons could be crushed in the event of an incident
  • managing driver fatigue, for example, by adjusting scheduling to allow for a change in route and more frequent rest breaks
  • ensuring employees and contractors are trained in how to check loads and the condition of load restraints, and there is regular checking included in their schedule
  • ensuring pre-start driving safety checks are completed and any defects are reported and fixed, checking for example:
    • the driver and passenger seats and seat belts are in a good condition and secure, to reduce the impact of road vibrations and keep occupants safe
    • driving instruments are functioning, such as steering wheel, brakes, indicators 
    • for any obvious signs of deterioration or corrosion
    • if seals are dried or cracked or no longer working
    • for dirt/water in oils and lubricants 
  • increasing scheduled vehicle maintenance and include additional checks for harsh conditions

Legal duties

Employers have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. They must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and contractors 
  • provide and maintain plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to health
  • ensure that persons other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer’s conduct
  • consult with employees, contractors and health and safety representatives about certain health and safety matters, including when identifying or assessing hazards or risks and making decisions about risk control measures

Both employers and self-employed persons must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, members of the public are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the employer or self-employed person's undertaking.

Employers must also provide employees and contractors with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017, employers and self-employed persons must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • identify all hazards associated with the use of plant (such as trucks, utilities, motor vehicles) at the workplace
  • control risks associated with plant in accordance with the plant hierarchy of control
  • ensure the plant is inspected to the extent necessary to ensure that risks associated with its use are monitored

Related information