The importance of effective safety plans in protecting UK road workers has been highlighted by the HSE.
It follows a recent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inquiry which looked at the circumstances behind a fatal accident involving a Highways Agency road worker.
In September 2012, a 59-year-old traffic officer was clearing up a section of the M25 following a car accident between junctions four and five.
As the Highways Agency employee was waiting for a recovery vehicle to attend, he was hit and fatally injured by a car which had lost control in the wet weather conditions.
The HSE investigations found that the deceased worker had not received a scheduled quarterly safety check in the period prior to the incident.
This was also found to be the case for more than half of the traffic officers who were based at the same Highways Agency depot in Dartford.
One of the basic safety procedures the check would have covered is the need for traffic workers to remain behind the roadside safety barrier whenever possible.
As a government department, the Highways Agency has immunity from prosecution but the HSE issued them with a crown censure, suggesting there would otherwise have been a valid case for legal action.
The HSE prosecuted 674 companies between 2013 and 2014 for breaches of safety regulations, resulting in UK companies having to pay out more than £18 million.
A HSE spokesperson told the Construction Index website that:
“Without proper supervision, companies have no way of knowing if their specified control measures are up to date and are being properly used.
“It is a vital step in controlling risks in the workplace. This is the case for staff who work for the Highways Agency, or indeed any other similar organisation out on the UK road network, just as much as it applies to those who work within a more traditional environment.”
Turning to Tech
With a recent spike in the number of accidents involving UK road workers, the Government has called on companies to improve their safety procedures.
Highways Agency figures show that between 2003 and 2008 there were 104 serious injuries involving workers on UK roads. Between 2009 and 2013, this had risen to 317, including eight fatalities.
One of the ways that traffic management and road maintenance companies are now tackling the problem is with increased use of digital technology to better manage and monitor employee safety.
Mobile Management Systems (MMS) allow a manager to see real-time information of exactly where field workers are, what tasks they are doing and which safety checks have been completed.
The cloud-based systems use apps loaded onto each worker’s smartphones, enabling head office to keep control of a mobile team.
The systems are configurable, allowing organisations to set-up compliance checklists and confirmation tickboxes for specific mobile worker tasks.
You can find out more about how digital systems can help safety compliance here.