Tragic accidents with mobile plant

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Tragic accidents with mobile plant – are we missing something?

Driver loses SSAOn 19 Feb 2013, a worker at a grain storage facility was struck and killed by a reversing front end loader while sweeping grain. The response from WorkCover NSW was to remind us all to focus on traditional systematised & procedural safety approaches but what about the human factors involved here? It seems pretty evident that we’re missing something critical in the strategy to reduce accidents with people and mobile plant.Other recent incidents where workers were killed after being struck by vehicles include: a worker at a paper recycling plant being struck by a reversing front end loader; a plumber being struck by a reversing pantec truck at an industrial estate; and an off-sider hit by a car while they were directing a reversing truck at a service station.According to a WorkCover NSW spokesperson, over the last five years, 10 workers have been killed and 2,089 workers injured due to mobile plant accidents at a cost of approximately $39 million to the NSW workers’ compensation system.

We all know that working in and around mobile plant is very dangerous but despite all of the traditional safety approaches to working with mobile plant, we continue to experience the carnage and waste of valuable human life. These traditional approaches typically include:

  • traffic control procedures that separate workers from mobile plant
  • safe work method statements for working around mobile plant
  • education and training courses for working with mobile plant
  • mobile plant safety systems and warning signals
  • properly assigned and maintained mobile plant

In all of these situations, it seems evident that good safe workers have suffered from a momentary loss of situational awareness resulting in tragedy. At SHAWSAFE, we believe in a holistic approach to work safety and given that 80% to 90% of safety incidents are caused by human error, we urge OH&S Managers in industrial environments to augment traditional safety approaches with the human factors approaches to help reduce accidents with people and mobile plant.

Another human factors approach is to start safety from the beginning when recruiting new workers, with tests that are designed specifically for mobile plant operators and workers. These tests are scientifically validated and commercially proven to identify workers with the right behavioural attributes and physical human abilities to work safely with mobile plant and equipment. We’re not referring to generic psychometric testing (such as IQ and Personality) but a specific battery of tests that are far more granular and highly validated for mobile plant workers. For example, these tests accurately identify a workers level of:

  • mechanical reasoning ability
  • ability to maintain concentration and vigilance in a repetitive working environment
  • reaction time
  • peripheral perception
  • ability to accurately judge speed, distance, and time
  • spatial awareness
  • attitudes and behaviour towards safety

These attributes are critical for working in and around mobile plant and equipment. By employing people with these attributes, the number of accidents caused by human factors will reduce significantly. Furthermore, these tests will identify existing mobile plant workers that have deficits that are a threat to their own safety and the safety of their co-workers. These deficits can then be targeted in an employee development plan using specialist training and rehabilitation software such as  CogniPlus supported by performance coaches (i.e. qualified organisational psychologists) for those needing help.

SHAWSAFE recommends SCHUHFRIED (est. 1947) as a specialist in these human factor capabilities. SCHUHFRIED is recognised as the world leader in computer-based psychology for operator, blue collar and driver roles. Many of the world’s largest industrial companies use SCHUHFRIED’s Vienna Test System to augment the traditional safety approaches with human factors safety approaches to provide a holistic strategy for reducing accidents with mobile plant and equipment.

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