The health and safety of truck drivers is at the centre of a breakthrough research project that recently won a $609,000 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant.
Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, said the NSW Government’s Centre for Work Health and Safety has joined forces with Monash University, Linfox and the Transport Workers Union to deliver the Driving Health project.
“This NHMRC grant means the Centre can work with the research partners to undertake interviews with drivers, their employers and contractors, as well as family members with the intention of developing interventions to improve the physical and mental health of truck drivers,” Mr Anderson said.
“This project between the Centre and its partners cannot be understated when we look at the importance of the road transport industry to our economy. Between 2004-2015 there were more than 120,000 accepted workers compensation claims lodged by truck drivers across the country, with over one-third of these in NSW.
“Rather than focussing on safety outcomes related to crashes, near misses, fatalities and traumatic injuries, this study will identify opportunities to improve health and wellbeing among truck drivers.”
To date the project has identified just 17 per cent of the burden of disability due to injury and disease is the result of crashes. Musculoskeletal conditions, like back pain, account for more than 76,000 lost working weeks every year.
CEO Linfox Australia and New Zealand Mark Mazurek said the industry needs to take a more proactive approach to improve the health and wellbeing of truck drivers.
“Australian truck drivers are particularly vulnerable so it’s important the industry works together to target and mitigate risks to their health, safety and wellbeing. This includes understanding the risk factors and ensuring greater access to health support services,” Mr Mazurek said.
National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union Michael Kaine said poor health among drivers is another major indicator of the crisis in road transport.
“Phase 1 of this study points to some serious issues in our industry where drivers’ health is failing. Phase 2 will examine the experience of many truck drivers, their families and those of us who work closely with them,” he said.
Study lead Dr Ross Iles from Monash University said more needs to be done to understand the challenges truck drivers face at work.
“Phase 2 of Driving Health, launching in the second half of 2019, will embark on the largest ever survey of the health of Australian truck drivers,” Dr Iles said.
“We know from our work so far that drivers face an increased risk of injury and even death at work. But we only have part of the picture. With the backing of the NHMRC and in partnership with the Centre for Work Health and Safety, Linfox and the TWU, we will better understand the health of our drivers. Then we can develop effective programs to help drivers be healthy and stay healthy at work.”
For more information visit the Centre for Work Health and Safety’s website at www.centreforwhs.nsw.gov.au. To see the reports from the Driving Health study, or to register your interest in participating, visit the study website: https://www.drivinghealth.net/