As COVID-19 restrictions ease, Australians are increasingly free to travel the country’s road networks for goods and services, recreation and work.
Road travel is a factor of everyday life most Australians take for granted, with the presumption that we will arrive at our destination alive.
But did you know that every year 1,200 people are killed, and another 44,000 people seriously injured, on Australian roads?
Injury by traffic accident is the biggest killer of Australian children under 15, and the second-biggest killer of all Australians aged 15-24.
Somehow road safety fails to attract the same urgent attention that even the recent Coronavirus public health campaigns have generated, so Brenniston Workplace First Aid is proudly saluting National Road Safety Week 2020 (15-22 November 2020) by joining over 32,000 (and counting!) Australian drivers in taking the Pledge To Drive So Others Survive.
Driving for work is proving to be a considerable risk to a worker’s health and safety. While this pledge encourages all Australian road users to lift their safety standards, we are particularly passionate about improving road safety for people who ‘work on the road’.
Working drivers come from a wide range of occupations: from emergency service providers, roadside assist and ride-share drivers, to freight and road transport workers, public and private transport operators, mobile sales staff, courier and food delivery drivers, cyclists and motorcyclists; they are all among the most vulnerable users of our roads.
Vehicle collision (car, truck, loader, tractor and quad bike crash) represents the most common cause of worker fatality by mechanism of incident - at 43% - at least four times more common than falling from a height or being hit by a falling or moving object.
Road transport industry workers are at the greatest risk of death, injury and illness.
According to Safe Work Australia, the road transport industry (defined as transporting freight by road and passengers by bus and taxi) comprises only 2% of the Australian workforce, but accounts for 4% of workers’ compensation claims and 17% of work-related fatalities.
Road transport industry workers face time pressures, shift work and fatigue, heavy manual handling, poor vehicle design, working at height and exposure to gases and fumes as serious risks to their work health and safety. These factors are compounded by the quality of our roads and the behaviour of all drivers who use them.
Similarly, emergency service workers, first responders and roadside workers regularly risk their personal safety to help others on the roads, while many other working drivers combat road rage, pedestrian traffic and hazardous road works as part of their jobs every day.
In keeping with National Road Safety Week 2020, we’ve compiled:
7 safe driving tips for working drivers
1. Stay focused
Avoid distractions such as smartwatches, loud music, rowdy passengers and multi-tasking, and never use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. Ideally mobile phones should be set to silent or do not disturb, and incoming calls diverted voicemail.
2. Respect the rukes
Keep to the speed limit and respect that the road is a shared space. Be aware of cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians, and remember that speed limits change around school zones at certain times of the day.
3. Drive straight
Driving while you’re tired, stressed or highly emotional can increase the risk of accident 10-fold. Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol – it not only impedes judgement and doubles the chance of an accident; it can also make some people more prone to anger.
4. Encourage others
Share your positive driving experiences with workplace colleagues; talk about how you can all improve your driving for personal safety and the safety of others.
5. Be mindful
Focus on getting to your destination as safely as possible with positive, in-the-moment thinking, or mindfulness.
Dr Amanda Stephens, an aggressive driving expert from Monash University Accident Research Centre, has collaborated on a study into aggressive driving and road rage. She observes, “Mindfulness will become particularly important when more drivers emerge out of COVID-19 lockdown. There is likely to be a shift in community mood as drivers return to the roads and are reacquainted with travel delays and increased road congestion.”
The study’s outcome, “Travel Time. Your Time” is an innovative campaign to encourage drivers to manage rage by practising mindfulness and focussing on positive mental wellbeing while driving.
6. Make it a policy
Introduce a safe driving policy at your workplace for employees who drive as part – or all of - their job. Risks around work-related driving are often under-estimated, so it is important for employers to consult with their working drivers about the driving hazards they face, planning trips to minimise risk, and selecting and maintaining vehicles suitable for the tasks. Most state and territory Work Health and Safety authorities can provide guidelines around safe driving policies for workers.
7. Be first aid ready
Ensure every work vehicle carries a first aid kit. National workplace regulations require that all workers have access to first aid facilities when working, so where an employee is using a vehicle to perform work, the vehicle is considered to be a workplace.
To quote Dr John Crozier, Chair of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ National Trauma Committee:
“The unbroken chain linking rapid rescue and resuscitation of the road crash victim, appropriately triaged and rapidly transported to the appropriate facility where treatment is provided at the highest quality, delivers the best health outcomes.”
Reviving Road Safety: Federal Priorities to Reduce Crashes and Save Lives Sept. 2019
Applying first aid using suitable first aid supplies can significantly improve the outcome of an injury, and even save a life. When choosing a vehicle first aid kit, consider the number of people using it, the nature of the work being undertaken in and out of the vehicle, and the environment in which the work is being done. For example, if an employee is working in a remote location, or driving in off-road conditions, their vehicle first aid kit needs to accommodate specific hazards like a snake bite, burns, cuts and grazes.
A vehicle first aid kit should always be contained within a soft bag and securely fixed within the vehicle, to reduce the risk of it becoming a dangerous projectile in an accident.
A basic motor vehicle first aid kit should include:
- Wound dressings
- Gauze swabs
- Dressing strips
- Sterile eye pads
- Saline eyewash
- Hypoallergenic tape paper
- Thermal blanket
- Resuscitation face shield
- Disposable gloves
- First aid and CPR instructions
May we all remember those who have lost their lives on Australian roads.