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20.1 Introduction to managing the risks of working near mobile plant

This section offers guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) on how to manage the risks associated with working with or near mobile plant (including vehicles) within a road or roadside worksite. For guidelines regarding managing the risks from public road users, see Section 19.0: Working near live traffic

The scale of site traffic management controls will vary depending on:

  • the size of the site
  • the mobile plant in use
  • the complexity of the works being undertaken.

In this section, ‘mobile plant’ also includes onsite work vehicles such as company cars, trucks, and utility vehicles.

20.2 What could go wrong when working near mobile plant?

Mobile plant used in road and roadside work can cause serious injury or death by rolling over, or by striking or colliding with workers, vehicles, or plant. Common hazards include:

  • people and mobile plant sharing the worksite
  • uncontrolled movement to, from, and within the worksite
  • multiple vehicles or mobile plant operating at the same time in a confined area
  • mobile plant operating on uneven surfaces or potentially unstable ground
  • mobile plant malfunctioning or breaking down
  • people using mobile plant in an unsafe manner (such as exceeding safe speeds or exceeding load limits).

Note: Aspects of how mobile plant is used or operated by workers may also cause risks to workers’ health. For more information, see the following sections:

20.3 Minimise the risks from working near mobile plant

Keep people and mobile plant separated

Wherever mobile plant is operating, there is a risk to workers or others who are nearby.

As it is not usually practicable to eliminate the use of mobile plant, the preferred control measure is to isolate workers or others from mobile plant while it is in operation.

Examples of how this could be done include:

  • creating an exclusion zone around mobile plant while in operation, so that only those directly involved with the operation of the mobile plant are permitted within the exclusion zone
  • using temporary pedestrian barriers or fencing, supported by signage, to indicate exclusion zones
  • making sure vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists have a safe way to get past the worksite, in particular past site entry and exit points.

Where relevant, keep worker and visitor parking clearly separated from the work area. Avoid having small vehicles parked alongside, in front, or behind larger vehicles.

For information on managing the risks associated with working from vehicles and mobile plant while they are moving, see Section 21.0: Working from moving vehicles

Control the speed of mobile plant on site

This can be done by:

  • setting worksite-specific speed limits for mobile plant operating within the worksite
  • using speed control measures such as temporary speed humps. But you need to make sure they are not going to create new risks such as vehicle instability
  • installing speed-limiting devices in mobile plant (which can be activated when a worker is detected nearby).

Use safe reversing and turning practices

Eliminate the need for reversing or turning by:

  • using multi-directional mobile plant or mobile plant with rotating cabins
  • having a one-way drive-through loading and unloading system (where applicable)
  • having designated turning areas that are separated from workers and other work activities.

Vehicles with dual steering wheels should avoid doing U-turns when being operated from the left side.

Where these control measures are not reasonably practicable, you should consider:

  • using devices like reversing sensors, reversing cameras, mirrors, rotating lights, or audible reversing alarms (make sure these are always kept clean and in working order)
  • using a competent person to guide the reversing mobile plant (see Guiding reversing plant below)
  • using radios and other communication systems
  • providing a designated area that is:
    • clearly marked
    • signposted
    • well-lit
    • has barriers around it to stop workers from entering the area.

For more detailed guidance, see Safe reversing and spotting practices

Guiding reversing plant (spotting)

The job of a spotter is to:

  • guide drivers or operators when reversing
  • make sure reversing areas are free of people.

If you use a spotter, make sure:

  • you are managing the risks of having a person near mobile plant while in operation:
    • the spotter should always be in visible contact with the driver or operator, and wear high-visibility clothing
    • the spotter should stand in a safe position throughout the reversing operation.
  • the spotter and driver or operator both understand and confirm the standard spotting signs to be used. For more information, see Safe reversing and spotting practices

Consider if radio communication between the spotter and driver would be appropriate.

For more detailed guidance, see Safe reversing and spotting practices

Use the right mobile plant for the job

Mobile plant used at worksites should be suitable for the purpose for which they are used. Using mobile plant for a task that it is not suited for can create risks for the driver and other people at the worksite.

When choosing the right mobile plant for a job, consider:

  • what the mobile plant will be doing
  • if the mobile plant is designed for the purpose you want to use it for
  • if the mobile plant can handle the required weight and type of load that you want it to carry
  • if the mobile plant is suitable for the surface it will be operating on
  • if the mobile plant could be at risk from rolling over
  • if the worker operating the mobile plant is trained and competent enough to use it safely for that task
  • if the mobile plant is currently certified and warranted. All mobile plant must meet relevant standards and have required registrations.

If you hire mobile plant, the hire company must provide the operating manual and instructions on how to use the mobile plant correctly and safely. This includes any weight information or noise ratings (so you can make sure workers have the correct PPE for working with that mobile plant).

For more information on upstream duties for suppliers of plant, substances, or structures, see Appendix 5: Upstream duties

Increase driver visibility

Drivers or operators should have good visibility when operating mobile plant. Choose mobile plant that has the best possible visibility and up-to-date safety features.

Consider adding features to mobile plant to eliminate blind spots and help drivers or operators to navigate safely when visibility is limited. For example, you could add:

  • reversing cameras with lines to indicate distance
  • pedestrian sensors such as radar or ultrasonic sensors
  • extra mirrors
  • other technology (see Collision avoidance technology and proximity warning devices below).

Check that any changes do not compromise the integrity of the operator protective structure (OPS), if present. You may need to have the OPS re-certified if additions or alterations are made.

Make sure everyone is aware when mobile plant is operating

You should consider adding the following features to mobile plant (if they are not already present) to help workers notice and avoid mobile plant while in operation:

  • lights
  • reflectors
  • flashing or rotating beacons
  • broadband reversing alarms (also known as quackers) or tonal reversing alarms
  • a horn
  • other technology (see Collision avoidance technology and proximity warning devices below).

Collision avoidance technology and proximity warning devices

Technological safety control measures can also contribute to making a worksite safer for workers, road users, and others passing near worksites. For example:

  • mobile plant proximity warning devices
  • personal proximity warning devices (these can be particularly useful if workers have to wear hearing protection that affects their ability to hear nearby mobile plant)
  • laser projected proximity lines showing workers how far away they should be from the mobile plant when it is moving. These can be particularly useful for night work.

Some proximity warning systems can automatically limit the mobile plant’s speed when certain conditions are detected (such as proximity to people or other mobile plant).

Some technological safety control measures can monitor and provide data on the mobile plant’s movements, including near misses. This data could be used when reviewing control measures and identifying high-risk areas or operators.


Operators of mobile plant should always use seatbelts unless there is a specific exception allowed, such as when operating a low entry vehicle. For more information see: Section 21.0: Working from moving vehicles

Seatbelts are essential during roll-overs. Seatbelts keep the worker inside the protective structure, preventing them from being thrown from the mobile plant and potentially crushed.

For more information about seatbelt use on mobile plant, see Seatbelts - a guide for businesses

Keep mobile plant well maintained

All mobile plant should be kept in good working order. Mobile plant should be maintained according to manufacturer recommendations and time or mileage guidelines. Mobile plant used in extreme conditions may need to be checked more often.

Operators should visually check their mobile plant at the beginning of every shift before using it. Provide operators with a checklist to guide them on what to look for. When using a checklist, you should:

  • make sure operators have enough time to complete their mobile plant check
  • keep the checklist as simple as possible
  • include a system for reporting problems and making sure they are dealt with and closed off.
    • Make sure mobile plant that fails a safety critical check is taken out of service and not allowed to be used until the problem is fixed (see Figure 21). For more information, see Keeping workers safe with machine lockouts
  • include a section for workers to add comments or identify any other issues.

It is ultimately the responsibility of the PCBU in control of the plant, not the worker, to make sure mobile plant is in good working order. You should monitor mobile plant checklists to make sure the checks are carried out properly and that identified issues are dealt with.

Poorly maintained mobile plant can also create health risks for operators, such as whole-body vibration from poor suspension or fumes exposure from clogged up vents.

[image] illustration of steering wheel with a yellow cover on it saying 'caution disabled vehicle do not attempt to drive' and steering wheel lock.
Figure 17: Example of mobile plant that cannot be used until it has been fixed

Safe operators

Worksite mobile plant should only be operated by workers who are competent in the safe use of that mobile plant.

Workers should have the relevant skills, experience, and certifications for the specific mobile plant and worksite conditions they are operating in.

A competent operator is someone that:

  • has had training and supervision on the operation of the mobile plant. This includes:
    • the practical mechanics of operating the mobile plant
    • how to operate it in a safe way based on the environmental conditions.
  • has the required licences and certifications to safely operate the mobile plant. For more information, see Section 28.0: Training, certifications, and competency
  • has the level of fitness and general abilities required to operate the mobile plant
  • is well enough on the day to operate the mobile plant safely, for example:

It is particularly important that new or less experienced drivers are closely monitored following their training to make sure they are operating the mobile plant safely.

20.4 Worksite vehicle movement plans

Worksite vehicle movement plans help communicate in greater detail how worksite traffic risks will be managed.

Complex worksites that have frequent onsite vehicle movements or multiple PCBUs operating on site should have a vehicle movement plan.

A vehicle movement plan should include:

  • a diagram of the site layout
  • details of known hazard areas for mobile plant, such as:
    • overhead electric lines
    • site entry and exit points
    • high traffic areas
    • rail corridors
    • unstable ground, steep slopes, bodies of water
  • site speed limits
  • the roles and responsibilities of workers managing traffic within the worksite
  • the roles and responsibilities of workers who work in or near mobile plant at the worksite
  • emergency procedures
  • any restrictions or considerations due to other regulatory requirements (such as noise restrictions)
  • details of how the plan works alongside any temporary traffic management plan that may also be in place.

Workers should be familiar with the vehicle movement plan. The plan should be included as part of their overall induction, in daily pre-work briefings whenever changes have been made, and during any refresher training.

Vehicle movement plans should be regularly monitored and reviewed by all workers and PCBUs in the contracting chain to make sure the plan remains effective and takes into consideration any changes at the worksite. Plans should always be reviewed after an incident (including near misses).

All changes to a vehicle movement plan should be communicated to workers as soon as possible.

20.5 More information on working near mobile plant