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5.1 Things to know when reading Part B - Managing health risks for road and roadside workers

Road and roadside workers can be exposed to health risks that can cause short-term and long-term illnesses.

The effects of exposure to work-related health risks may not become visible for days, weeks, months, or even years. A worker’s health can be harmed by a single exposure or harm can develop over time from repeated exposures.

Sections 6 to 15 of these guidelines discuss common health risks to road and roadside workers. They provide examples of control measures that can eliminate or minimise these health risks in the road and roadside work context.

Sections 16 and 17 of these guidelines provide information on how exposure monitoring and health monitoring can be used to:

  • firstly, help detect health risks, and
  • then be used to provide information on the effectiveness of control measures once they have been applied.

Not all examples will be appropriate to all situations. The relevance of each section and associated examples will depend on:

  • the scale, scope, and nature of the work being done, and
  • how any given control measure may interact with other work processes or practices (any new risks created by a control measure must also be managed and not be allowed to transfer elsewhere).

It is up to the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to assess their individual circumstances and (in consultation with workers, contractors and subcontractors in the contracting chain) determine which control measures are appropriate and reasonably practicable for their situation. For more information see, Section 2.0: Risk management

Examples of risks and control measures provided here will not cover all possibilities.

There may be other health-related risks that are not mentioned in these guidelines. You will need to identify and manage these risks.

You can apply control measures that are not suggested in these guidelines, if you are satisfied that they provide equal or better protection.

5.2 The relationship between health and work

Work can affect health and health can affect work.

Work-related health risks fall into five categories, and health-related safety risks fall into four categories.

[image] Diagram showing the two way relationship between health and work
Figure 4: Relationship between health and work

Effects of work on health

The table below lists work-related risks and examples of how they can harm a workers’ health

Type of risk

Example of harm

Physical risks

Exposure to noise may lead to noise-induced hearing loss


Chemical risks

Exposure to solvents may lead to occupational asthma


Biological risks

Exposure to animal bacteria may lead to sudden and severe illnesses


Manual task risks

Repeated lifting of heavy or bulky items may lead to back injury


Mental harm risks

Bullying at work may lead to work-related stress

Table 3: Examples of work risks and how they can harm a workers’ health

Effects of health on work

The table below lists health-related risks and examples of how they can lead to safety incidents and acute harm:

Type of risk

Example of harm

Sensory risks

Changes in a worker’s hearing or eyesight may prevent them from correctly or quickly identifying and reacting to a workplace risk

Impairment risks

Fatigue may lead to reduced concentration

Mobility risks

Physical restrictions may prevent a worker from moving out of the way of an oncoming vehicle

Incapacity risks

An unknown or poorly controlled heart condition may lead to a worker suddenly losing consciousness during a safety critical task


Table 4: Examples of health risks and how they can affect worker safety

You should consider both the effects work has on health and the effects health has on work when managing the risks for road and roadside work.

5.3 Work-related health problems often have more than one cause

Often there can be more than one thing (or factor) that could lead to a worker’s health being harmed. Examples of these factors include:

  • Physical factors, such as task duration, task repetition, forces or loads, and awkward postures.
  • Environmental factors, such as noise, temperature, and lighting.
  • Organisational factors, such as rosters and shifts, training, and worksite communication.
  • Individual factors, such as body size, fitness, previous injures, and fatigue.
  • Psychological factors, such as job demands, stress, workplace relationships, and available support.

These factors can be cumulative – each factor alone may not create a risk, but when combined these factors may cause harm.

Workers may be ‘managing their work okay’ until additional events push them towards discomfort, injury, or mental harm.

For example, consider a worker who works in a job that involves a repetitive task that also requires concentration. Usually, they can take regular breaks and swap tasks with a co-worker to avoid doing the same task for a long time (which could lead to musculoskeletal injuries). However:

  • their co-worker calls in sick, so they cannot rotate tasks
  • the project is running behind schedule, so they take shorter breaks and even skip some breaks
  • they start feeling physical discomfort while working but ignore it and continue to work due to pressure to get the job done
  • their discomfort starts distracting them from the task, increasing the risk of them making a mistake.

By the end of the week what started as a mild ache or pain has begun developing into a serious condition. If you pay early attention to discomfort, you can control the risks before serious harm occurs.

5.4 Eliminate health risks at the planning and design stage

Where reasonably practicable, potential risks to worker health should be assessed and eliminated at the planning and design stage of the work. For example, this can be done by:

  • planning and scheduling reasonable completion dates and avoiding impractical deadlines
  • choosing work practices and methodologies that reduce harmful exposures (even if these may take longer)
  • choosing machinery and tools that present the least risk to workers
  • choosing the least harmful products and substances
  • designing work so roles and responsibilities are clear, which allows for early resolution of issues
  • planning for and allocating enough workers to a job or project so workers can have regular breaks and take sick leave without putting pressure on other workers.