There is a continuing and contentious parallel between road safety and occupational safety. OHS specialists are worsening this problem by trying to illustrate OHS issues in relation to road safety because road safety is seen to be more easily understandable by the public.
But this approach confuses the public more than enlightens, and it also puts workplace safety in a difficult context. This is illustrated, particularly, in an article in Melbourne’s HERALD-Sun newspaper ( 25 February 2008), entitled “Road Killers – Truckies in drug binge“.
I am of the opinion that vehicles used for work purposes make the vehicles, for most of their time, workplaces, and should be subject to occupational health and safety laws and obligations. OHS regulators support this perspective for vehicles such as taxis and cattle trucks, as they participate in taxi industry safety programs and provide guidance on accessing the outside of cattle truck in a safe manner. But they hesitate when relating driver behaviour to a safe workplace.
Car drivers operate within a different set of rules. They drive without OHS obligations. But truck, and commercial vehicle, operators must operate within road and workplace rules providing drivers and employers with a detailed set of rules that cover all the hours and activities within their work shifts.
There are legislative OHS obligations on all employees to undertake work tasks in a manner that does not threaten or injure themselves and others. (This obligation reflects the common sense attitude that most individuals have over their own welfare.) There is also a legislative OHS obligation on employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment. If the transport industry, and OHS regulators, were serious about applying these obligations to all workplaces, they would be applying them more heavily to the drivers and trucking companies.
Inaction is unforgivable when there are rules governing the actions of individuals and employers. The rules are good rules but are not being enforced.