By law, employers and self-employed people must:
- assess the risks to anyone who might be affected by their work activity;
- take appropriate preventive and protective steps to control these risks.
These requirements apply to all work activities, including those involving transport.
What is a risk assessment?
A risk assessment is a careful examination of what, in your work, could harm people. It helps you decide whether you have done enough to prevent anyone coming to harm, or need to do more.
By law, the risk assessment must be ‘suitable and sufficient’. This means it must be good enough to protect people from any harm that you can predict. Your risk assessment does not need to be complicated or technical. Most employers carry out risk assessments during the normal course of their work.
For example, if you were to hire a new driver, you would identify how much information, instruction or training they will need do their work without making mistakes or causing accidents. By recognising that there are risks associated with having new drivers, and then deciding what precautions to take, you do a risk assessment and act on it.
Your risk assessment is thorough and accurate because you need to use it when you decide what to do to control risks. It will help you to decide what is ‘reasonably practicable’ because it will help you decide how serious risks are, and how much effort and cost is necessary to control them.
If your organisation employs five or more people (including managers), you must write down any significant findings from the risk assessment.
We recommend this five-step process to carry out a risk assessment:
Step 1 – Identify the hazards
First you need to look at work activities that involve vehicles (including visiting vehicles) over a reasonable period. This could be over the course of a day, a week or a month. You need to build up a clear picture of vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the workplace, and to make sure you miss nothing important.
List all the activities you know will happen in your workplace, such as deliveries, loading or collecting waste. You can do this by watching the workplace and observing:
- where vehicles are;
- what drivers are doing;
- how they are doing it; and
- why they are doing it.
You might like to use our site inspection checklist to help you spot workplace transport hazards
A plan of the site can help you see where vehicles are operating, and where any dangers might be.
In particular, look for areas where people work around moving vehicles, and where people work on vehicles themselves. You should remember to include every task you can think of, including those:
- that happen at quiet times;
- that don't happen very often (like collecting waste); or
- that take place in a different workplace, for example, an employee delivering to a customer's site).
Asking security or gate staff who enters a site, or asking a stores department for a list of which firms deliver and when, can help you build up a complete picture of transport activity in your workplace.
List all the vehicles that visit your site, and make a note of what they do. Think about when and where these things happen, and what else is happening in that area at the same time. This will make it easier to recognise who might be harmed, in Step 2 of the risk assessment.
To identify the hazards, look at each of the work activities associated with transport and ask: 'What are the possible dangers, and what is causing them?'
There are four main kinds of accidents that involve workplace transport:
- people being struck by or run over by a vehicle;
- people being struck by something falling from a vehicle;
- people falling from vehicles;
- vehicles overturning.
The questions you ask yourself should concentrate on these dangers, and should cover all the aspects of vehicle use in your workplace. Concentrate on things that are likely to cause serious damage, or hurt several people, because these are the more significant hazards. The site inspection checklist will give you an idea of the sort of questions to ask. It is based on tasks that often happen around vehicles, and measures to control risks you should be thinking about.
When you are looking for transport hazards, look at:
- features of your workplace (such as how routes are laid out and whether they are in good condition);
- the vehicles themselves; and
- the actions of the drivers and others who are near to vehicles.
Think 'site', 'vehicle', 'driver'.
Also think how things could change (for example, at different times of the year or in bad weather). Examples could include:
- drivers being dazzled by strong sunlight at times of the year when the sun is low in the sky;
- bad visibility in a loading area when deliveries are made at night;
- the effects of strong gusts of wind on people working high up on the outside of vehicles; or
- heavy rain, mist, snow, ice or frost.
Include any hazards that already have precautions in place to prevent the hazard from harming anyone. For example, an open-top vehicle may be fitted with a system to prevent it from rolling over (or to protect the driver if it does roll over). However, you should still:
- look to see if there is a possibility that the vehicle will overbalance;
- make a note of any safety measures; and
- consider whether any existing precautions are good enough.
Ask drivers, supervisors and any other employees at the site (including contractors and, possibly, visiting drivers) for their views on any problems and what they think could be done to make the work safer.
You may find it helpful to take photographs. You can keep these as part of a recorded risk assessment and to show what hazards and preventive measures have been identified.
Step 2 – Decide who might be harmed and how
Hazards involving workplace transport involve drivers – both those employed at one site and drivers visiting sites owned by other companies. Think all other employees, contractors, subcontractors, customers, part-time employees, cleaners, maintenance staff, visitors and members of the public. Which of these types of people are likely to be near to vehicles, and why?
Step 3 – Evaluate the risks
The risk posed by each hazard is the chance that somebody will be harmed (high or low), and how seriously they might be harmed (seriously or not). High risks are ones where someone is very likely to be harmed or where the harm is likely to be serious (or both).
Once you have identified the hazards and who is in danger, you should think about how likely it is that an accident will happen and, if it does, how severe the injury is likely to be. Transport accidents are usually serious, or at least have the potential to be serious.
Higher risks include both:
- accidents that are very likely to happen, regardless of outcome; and
- and accidents that, however unlikely, could cause serious harm.
Once you have decided how much risk a hazard is causing, you can think about controlling the risks. Ask yourself:
- Have we done anything to reduce this risk?
- Are the measures enough?'
If you have not met any general legal duties, or specific legal requirements relating to the hazard, you will need to take more precautions.
If you have already taken measures to reduce particular risks, you will still need to ask whether the other risks are acceptably low. For example, you might decide that as well as setting speed limits on vehicle routes, you need to install road humps or other measures to make sure that vehicles do not drive too fast.
Eliminate or reduce the risks
If you decide that something more needs to be done, you should first try to remove the problem altogether (for example, by restricting vehicle movements to certain parts of the workplace).
If you cannot remove the problem, try to reduce the risks.
Ways to reduce risk
- Instruct and train employees to take care, to use work equipment safely, and to use personal protective equipment. However, do not rely on this to keep them safe if there is more you can do.
- Where possible, change the layout of the workplace or use vehicles with appropriate safety features (for example, have separate pathways for pedestrians, use road humps, or use vehicles with speed limiters). You should also set up safe systems of working (for example, enforce speed limits).
- Prioritise the improvement measures you have identified based on the level of risk you have decided each hazard poses, and set a realistic date for each action.
Step 4 – Record your findings
If your organisation employs five or more people (including managers), by law you must record the significant findings of your assessment.
This means recording the more significant hazards (usually in writing) and your most important conclusions (for example, ‘Risk of dislodged load because of low branches – cut back regularly and put up a warning sign').
You will find this a useful part of your risk assessment because it helps you remember what you have found and what you have decided to do.
The risk assessment form is a clear way of recording your findings, and it reflects the five-step approach we recommend. There is also an example of how a risk assessment could look, to help you when you do your own.
You must also tell your employees, including any safety representatives, about your findings. You can do this more easily with a written record.
Step 5 – Review the risk assessment
You should review the risk assessment form regularly, to check that it is still relevant. Each risk assessment should include a date for when a review is due, which should take account of the type of work and the speed of changes, which are likely to be different for every workplace.
New hazards may emerge when you:
- introduce new vehicles;
- change the traffic routes; or
- change the nature of the work.
Assess risks before you make any significant changes. This will help keep risks as low as possible from the moment the changes are introduced. You must consult employees either directly or through elected safety representatives if the changes could substantially affect their health and safety. Keep the risk assessment up-to-date with working practices and equipment.