Lessons from the race that killed a bystander
Last month, the Coroner delivered its findings into the circumstances of the death of a bystander, Mr Nigel Harris, at the Finke Desert Race in Alice Springs in 2021. As reported by the ABC News, the inquest highlighted the duty owed by all organisations for the health and safety of members of the public.
The inquest, which examined the safety systems in place at the high-speed rally event, heard evidence that the organising committee and Motorsports Australia were aware of the very real danger posed by the vehicles to spectators, but did not take any substantial steps to address those risks. There was evidence of safety reports being received by the committee in the years leading up to the fatal incident, with safety recommendations that were not implemented.
Since the incident, measures have been adopted, including exclusion zones and requirements for certain areas to be off limits to the public. These requirements are enforced by marshals engaged to monitor compliance.
Under health and safety legislation in all jurisdictions, employers and persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) have a primary duty of care to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of visitors to your workplace, such as spectators, are not put at risk as a result of the work activities carried out by the PCBU.
In cases like the Finke Desert Race, implementing a safety plan that separates vehicles from pedestrians is critical. Similarly, a large number of organisations have to ensure that their traffic management plans prevent visitors or other members of the public being exposed to harm.
Your organisation should consider when designing your traffic management plan:
- how, when and where visitors access the premises;
- is safe access available by foot or by other means such as couriers or deliveries through a loading dock;
- are areas that are off-limits clearly marked; and
- do signs, line marking and barriers clearly set out the exclusion zones for pedestrians and other visitors such as couriers.
Managing your duty to visitors to the workplace can be complex. At the Health & Safety Handbook, we are here to help you to break down the complexities so you can meet your obligations with confidence. So, keep your eyes peeled for a new chapter of the handbook, Visitors to the Workplace, which is on its way to subscribers.
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