UK Vows to Improve Workplace Transportation Safety

Although the UK has made significant strides in reducing transportation-related accidents in workplaces, there's still much work to be done, says the Health and Safety Commission.

A UK Health and Safety Commission (HSC) discussion document on workplace transportation was launched at a London conference this week. "Workplace transportation" means any vehicle used in a work setting.

The conference was held at Church House, Westminster, and attracted over 120 delegates from government agencies and a range of industries, including retail, brewing, construction and automotive.

Bill Callaghan, chair of HSC, noted the country has made significant strides in improving safety standards over the past 25 years - the fatal accident rate is now less than a quarter of what it was in the early 70''s - but added, "Today, it is hard to see any significant new ground being won. We need to change that: the economic case for action is as strong as ever and there are social and moral arguments."

Provisional figures for 2000-01 show that 99 people were killed in work-related transportation accidents, while 2,490 sustained major injuries and an additional 5,857 were injured seriously enough to be off work for over three days. The most common accident types were being struck by, or falling from, a vehicle; vehicles overturning and materials falling from vehicles.

In his keynote speech to the conference, organized by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Dr. Alan Whitehead MP, minister with responsibility for health and safety at the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR), said he supports the HSC''s decision to make workplace transportation a priority to meet national targets to reduce overall workplace illnesses and injuries. He added, "There is a responsibility on all of us - government, management and workers - to make it happen.

"Safe workplace transport is not just good for the health of the workforce, but also the wealth of the management. I welcome the publication today of the discussion document has been published, which will take forward the work that is already underway," said Whitehead.

The discussion document draws on HSE research and sets out areas that should be addressed in order to reduce the accident rate. Topics addressed in the document include:

  • Management issues (risk assessment, introducing and enforcing control measures, e.g. speed limits);
  • Communication (e.g. better communication between drivers and those controlling workplaces they visit); and
  • Vehicle maintenance and pedestrian safety.

"We want to use the document to stimulate debate," Callaghan told attendees. "We have set out a number of questions on which we want your answers or views and would like you to tell us about ways in which you have already tried to tackle these issues. What went well? What went wrong?"

He added it is an important part of the agency''s job to spread best practices information to others who can use it. "The good practice and ideas you raise will also influence HSE''s activities and inspection programs in 2002 and 2003 and beyond," he told the group.

Copies of "Preventing workplace transport accidents" (Ref. DDE18) can be ordered at www.hsebooks.co.uk or are available from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury CO10 2WA (Tel: 01787 881165/Fax: 01787 313995).

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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