How safe is your mobile workforce? Occupational health and safety considerations for managers.
Over recent years, responsibility for fleet safety has shifted from drivers to organisations and even individual managers – making this a growing issue for Australian businesses. The new Model Work Health and Safety Bill, due for release on 1st January 2012, is set to further extend the scope of business liability for employee welfare. With this in mind, now is the time for businesses to start planning, to ensure they are compliant with the new legislation.
The 2012 bill is set to implement a national OH&S standard across Australia whereby a fleet managed vehicle is defined as a ‘workplace’ and a duty of care is imposed on employers to ensure the health and safety of their mobile employees within this workplace. This duty extends to any employee who directly manages a fleet. With the legislation proposing fines of up to $600,000 or a term of up to five years imprisonment for failure to uphold this duty, businesses need to put in place solid practices around fleet safety to limit their liability.
‘So far as is reasonably practicable’
The legislation requires managers to do what is ‘reasonably practical’ to ensure the health and safety of their mobile workforce, including:
- Providing and maintaining safe systems of work
- Providing the information, training, instruction and supervision that is necessary to protect employees from risks to their health and safety
- Monitoring workplace conditions to prevent injury to employees
GPS fleet management solutions can help businesses implement and monitor policies around mobile workforce safety, tracking employee behaviour in real time, monitoring fleet conditions and enabling proactive steps to remedy hazards.
Tracking driver location
For businesses with a mobile workforce, ‘monitoring workplace conditions’ means ensuring the safety of vehicles and drivers at all times. GPS fleet management solutions enable organisations to locate vehicles to within four meters. Products with satellite or Next-G links provide continuous coverage, even in remote areas, to ensure the safety of drivers.
Some fleet management solutions also offer accident alerts, sending an automated notification to the organisation on impact. This system allows fleet managers to take remedial action and alert emergency services.
Monitoring driver behaviour
The new legislation requires ongoing compliance with the fleet’s safety policies. Here again, fleet management solutions can help businesses demonstrate OH&S credentials by enabling businesses to monitor and remedy unacceptable behaviours such as over-speeding. These solutions provide ongoing records of driver compliance with safety policies, allowing managers to counsel employees with hard statistics around their driving behaviour to drive cultural change.
Managing vehicle maintenance
To provide a safe workplace, managers need to ensure that vehicles are well maintained and fit for purpose.
Fleet tracking technology enables businesses to set up automatic alerts to ensure vehicles and equipment are regularly maintained. Records can also be kept on what services have taken place, including dates and costs against each vehicle.
Managing driver fatigue
Australian fleets often transport goods over long distances, travelling through remote areas at night. Managers are responsible for ensuring that drivers take regular breaks to avoid fatigue.
Fleet tracking enables businesses to monitor the components of an individual driver’s work day, including the time spent driving, loading and stationary. This monitoring takes place via a PIN which is required when the ignition is turned on or off. These solutions are vital when a driver uses multiple vehicles, allowing fleet managers to provide a high level of supervision to protect drivers from health and safety risks.
There is no doubt that the legislative landscape is shifting, imposing more responsibility on businesses and fleet managers for driver safety. In this environment it is increasingly important for Australian businesses to understand their legal obligations around OH&S and how to meet them. GPS fleet management technologies help demonstrate a proactive approach to driver safety by reducing risks and hazards as well as helping to limit liability under the new legislation.