On this page:


2.1 Introduction to risk management

This section offers guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) on ways you can apply good risk management principles in the road and roadside work environment.

Risks to health and safety arise from people being exposed to a hazard (a source or cause of harm).

As a PCBU, you must manage your work risks so that workers and other peoples’ health and safety is not put at risk by the work that you do.

Risk management is about:

  • identifying hazards and assessing risks
  • applying control measures to eliminate or minimise those risks
  • regularly reviewing control measures.

You must consult with your workers and their representatives at all steps of the risk management process. For more information, see Appendix 6: Worker engagement, participation and representation

If you are planning work that will likely be undertaken by contractors and subcontractors, where reasonably practicable, you should consult with those contractors and subcontractors who are going to be doing the work when planning out how to manage risks. For more specific details, see Section 3.0: Managing risk throughout the contracting chain

2.2 Identify hazards

With your workers, identify hazards that could be associated with the work activity.

A hazard is a potential source or cause of harm (such as a physical injury, or harm to a person’s health or their mental wellbeing) and can include a person’s behaviour.

Every work environment or work activity will be different. Looking at your work environment and thinking about things that could go wrong may help you to identify hazards. Reviewing your incident and injury records (including near misses) may also help identify hazards.

Table 1 below lists some common hazards for road and roadside workers. You can use these as a starting point for identifying hazards related to your road or roadside work.

Remember: When identifying hazards, you need to think across the entire duration of the project, from initiation and set up, to execution, conclusion, and future maintenance.

Hazard area Examples
Physical landscape features
  • steep slopes or drop-offs
  • uneven terrain
  • bodies of water

Extreme weather conditions (consider seasonal and daily variations)

  • excess surface water
  • ice in winter
  • strong winds
  • fog
  • hot or cold temperature extremes
  • ultra-violet (UV) exposure
Mobile plant, power tools and other machinery and worksite vehicles
  • machinery operating near to people or other machinery
  • plant that produces excessive fumes, vibration, or noise
  • working near live traffic lanes
  • changing road conditions
  • road users:
    • distracted road users
    • aggressive/angry road users
    • driving too fast for the conditions
Worksite layout
  • poor visibility
  • poor lighting
  • limited working space
Biological hazards
  • bacterial, viruses, or faecal matter
  • contaminated water (flood waters or stagnant water)
  • biological matter spills
  • road kill
Hazardous substances
  • hazardous substances being used (such as emulsion)
  • hazardous substances being stored at site/or transported to/from site
  • chemical spills
Presence of live underground or overhead services and utilities
  • working near overhead lines
  • digging near underground cables or pipes
  • proximity to live services
  • damaged utilities resulting from a crash or weather event
Harmful airborne substances
  • vehicle and plant emissions (such as diesel particulate matter)
  • silica particulate from concrete cutting
  • dust and other contaminants disturbed during digging or excavation 
Exposure to traumatic situations
  • vehicle-related crashes
  • worksite incidents
  • confrontation with members of the public or other workers or contractors
Working at height
  • on ladders or other height access equipment
  • on bridges
  • on vehicles
  • near edges of trenches
Confined spaces
  • working in trenches
  • working in underground
  • working in tunnels
  • low oxygen atmospheres and hydrogen sulphide
Hours or work / shift work
  • long commute times to worksites
  • night work
  • excessive over-time
Manual handling / vibration
  • lifting or handling heavy objects
  • operating machinery that creates vibration
  • repetitive tasks
Remote work
  • limited access to facilities
  • lone workers
  • emergency assistance (especially in hard to reach locations)
Pedestrians, cyclists, and other people in proximity to the work site
  • unexpected movements of the public
  • interference with unattended worksites
  • public entering worksites without authorisation
Personal factors
  • impairment of workers due to drugs, medication, alcohol, stress, or fatigue
  • worker distractions (such as cell-phones, work pressures, home pressures)

Interpersonal relationships


  • bullying, harrassment, violence
  • poor communications, between workers, managers, and other contractors

Table 1. Examples of common hazards

2.3 Assess the risk

You will need to carry out a risk assessment for each hazard you have identified. You should involve your workers in this process.

Below are some of the things you should consider when carrying out a risk assessment.

Who might be exposed to the hazard?

  • Think about who could be involved in, or near, the work activity. For example:
    • workers
    • contractors
    • site visitors
    • motorised road users
    • pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable road users.
  • Do you have any workers that could be considered vulnerable? For example:
    • new, young, or inexperienced workers
    • migrant workers
    • workers with low literacy levels (they may not be able to understand written safety information).

How often is the hazard likely to cause a risk?

  • Is the hazard present all the time, some of the time, or very rarely?
  • What factors could influence when the hazard will occur or be present?
    • Are there certain times of the year that are busier than others?
    • Are there likely to be seasonal variations to the level of risk?
    • Are there certain activities that have increased exposure to the hazard?

How could workers or others be physically harmed? This could include:

  • being hit by a vehicle
  • being hit by mobile plant
  • being physically assaulted by public road users or other workers
  • falling from a vehicle or some other height
  • being hit by falling objects
  • being injured by sharp objects or pinch points on work equipment or machinery
  • being hit by items falling off a vehicle (unsecured or unstable loads)
  • being injured as a result of improper use of a vehicle or mobile plant
  • being injured when carrying out manual tasks
  • slipping, tripping, or falling from slippery, uneven, steep, or unstable surfaces.

How could workers’ health or mental wellbeing be harmed? For example, this could happen:

  • through exposure to hazardous levels of fumes or excessive noise or biological or chemical matter
  • through excessive use of vibrating plant
  • through a lack of access to facilities such as toilets or sanitation, and shelter and healthy food options
  • through fatigue or stress from working long hours or shift work disrupting sleep patterns
  • from verbal abuse by public road users, other staff, management, or contractors
  • from dealing with the results of road crashes or traumatic situations (including having to work at or near sites of previous fatalities).

How severe could the harm be?

  • Could the hazard result in serious harm or a fatality?

How likely are these consequences?

  • How likely is it that someone could be harmed by the hazard?

How does or could the hazard interact with other hazards or risk?

  • Does the risk presented by the hazard increase or change in the presence of other hazards? For example, working near a sharp bend in the road could be made even more dangerous if fog further reduces driver visibility.

Decide which risks to deal with first. Risks with potentially significant, life changing consequences such as serious injury or death, or chronic ill-health should be prioritised.

2.4 Manage the risk

You must take all reasonably practicable actions to eliminate risks to health and safety. Many of the examples listed above can be eliminated through well considered design and planning.

If elimination is not reasonably practicable, you must minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

The ways of managing risks are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. This ranking is known as the hierarchy of control measures.

Using the hierarchy of control measures to manage risks will help you make sure you are using the most effective control measures first (see Figure 2).

[image] diagram of hierarchy of control measures from most to least effective
Figure 2: Hierarchy of control measures

* Note: Common risk areas for road and roadside workers and recommended control measures are covered in more detail in Part B and Part C of these guidelines.

You should use a combination of control measures. Using multiple control measures means that if a single control measure fails, workers will not be left without any protection.

Reasonably practicable

Eliminating the risk should be the preferred approach when deciding what control measure is the most appropriate.

However, elimination may not always be reasonably practicable, and you may need to consider lower-level control measures.

When considering whether you can use a particular control measure to ensure health and safety, you can take into account and weigh up relevant matters including:

  • the likelihood of the risk concerned occurring or workers being exposed to the hazard
  • the degree of harm that might result
  • what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about:
    • the hazard or risk
    • ways of eliminating or minimising the risk
  • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk
  • after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.

For more information, see WorkSafe’s fact sheet: Reasonably practicable [PDF, 44 KB]

If in doubt – seek expert advice

You may choose to seek advice from a suitably qualified health and safety professional when seeking to understand the risks your workers face and how best to manage those risks.

If you do seek expert advice, this advice should be considered alongside the outcomes of consulting with your workers, and contractors or subcontractors (if applicable).

2.5 Review control measures

Control measures need to be regularly reviewed in consultation with your workers or their representatives, to make sure they remain effective. For more information, see Appendix 6: Worker engagement, participation and representation

In a contracting chain, the PCBU at the top of the contracting chain (the contracting PCBU) must make sure planned control measures are being applied, and that the control measures are effectively managing the risk to all workers down the contracting chain. For more specific details, see Section 3.0: Providing for health and safety throughout the contracting chain

If your worksite or work activities change, you need to check that your existing control measures are still the most appropriate ones to use.

2.6 Managing risk across a system

In the road and roadside work environment, think about how you will manage risk across the whole system – that is:

  • across a project, from design to completion and future maintenance
  • across all work activities, workers, and others affected by the work (road users and the general public).

Rather than managing each risk in isolation, think about how control measures for each risk could impact on other parts of the system or the workflow, to avoid risks being transferred or created elsewhere.

You may need to weigh up the benefits of a particular control measure against any potential risks it creates elsewhere and look at a solution that provides the least total risk to all affected parties.

2.7 Managing risk in dynamic environments

For emergency work in particular, it may not be possible to anticipate all risks that may arise.

The level of risk associated with a particular activity may vary based on:

  • the geographic location
  • weather conditions
  • the time of year
  • whether it is day or night
  • the day of week or time of day
  • traffic volumes (for example, peak commuting traffic or holiday season traffic)
  • road user behaviour
  • how close the work is to a live lane of traffic.

Train workers to recognise unanticipated risks and know what control measures to use. Workers need to be able recognise when a situation has become unsafe. They also need to have the authority to stop work if they decide they are unable to properly manage the risks they have identified.

2.8 More information on general risk management