• Garth Forsberg
    25
    I had a staff member come and ask whether he could travel to a customer site by bicycle.
    He normally bikes to work, but then has to drive to sites in a company pool car.
    His manager was listening in and said that at his last company there was a strict policy that cycling to and from work was strongly encouraged, but cycling for work transport was forbidden due to 'health and safety reasons.'

    I'm trying to justify whether to allow this or not. The site concerned is only a few blocks away and quicker by bike than car. There is no equipment to carry.

    I couldn't find any regulations or rules on the topic. There was a load of information on the benefits and risks of cycling to and from work, but the rules on cycling during or for work was lost in that noise.

    From a risk analysis perspective, the chance of accident or injury while cycling is much higher than driving a car: 25 fatal crashes per 100,000 bicycles per year compared to less than 1 fatal crash per 100,000 cars per year according to Ministry of Transport annual stats.

    But the risk of heart attack and other sedentary diseases is far greater for people that don't exercise.

    So, as the manager said, riding to and from work was encouraged, but riding for work was banned. But, an attitude of pushing one risk into a worker's spare time so that there is a lower risk while they are at work seems like hypocrisy to me.

    Are the relative risks between car and bicycle use enough to ban cycling for work?
    If we say cycling for work is out, can we encourage biking to and from work?

    A risk of 25 in 100,000 with an exposure rate of maybe 20 work trips to site per year for this particular worker is still a low risk, even with the potential consequence of fatality.

    Or am I overthinking this and should just let the worker assess and manage their own safety while travelling to site?

    What are people's thoughts?
  • Andrew
    340
    For a start I wouldn't be encouraging people to cycle to work. First - its their time. Not mine. So none of my business. Second - with drivers like ours its damn dangerous to be on a bike.

    As for the visiting customer. Aesthetically I don't think it is a good look turning up on a bike. All sweaty and hair a mess with cycle clips.Is the company such a cheapskate it can't afford to give the person a car?

    As from there do the risk assessment. Personally. Id err on metal vs metal rather than metal vs a squishy thing.
  • Jane
    50
    What is the company culture in terms of sustainability?
    Is there any climate change action under way or required in your industry?
    Sustainability covers economy, people and environment, so H&S is part of the equation as per looking after people, but so is resource use as per energy and time.

    What are your client and customer expectations of your company? In many industries, someone arriving on a bike would be considered a very good thing indeed, does your company need to walk the talk?

    I would consider the issues to be broader than just H&S, and it depends on what your company values.

    Edited to add, if my internet sleuthing is accurate, then the tagline for your business is "Find Better Ways"... now there is a challenge.
  • Garth Forsberg
    25
    For a start I wouldn't be encouraging people to cycle to work.Andrew
    By encourage - we have provided bike sheds and showers so that people feel more comfortable about riding to work. And we take part in the Aotearoa bike challenge month Love to Ride challenge as one activity in the 'Be Active' part of the 5 ways to mental health stress and wellness initiative. So we enable cycling to work, and encourage a healthy and resilient lifestyle.

    All sweaty and hair a mess with cycle clipsAndrew
    As i said, this site is only a few blocks away.

    As from there do the risk assessment. Personally. Id err on metal vs metal rather than metal vs a squishy thing.Andrew
    The consequences are greater, but the exposure is very small- likelihood being made up of exposure and chance of the risk happening. There are a lot of higher risks deemed 'as low as reasonable practical'.


    What is the company culture in terms of sustainability?Jane
    Sustainability is a project I'm working on, moving from just claiming to be in favour of it to having policies and 'walking the talk'. Watch this space, but there are bigger challenges to close out first.


    Thanks for the debate though, it's helping me get my head around the issues.
  • Jane
    50
    Sustainability is a project I'm working on, moving from just claiming to be in favour of it to having policies and 'walking the talk'. Watch this space, but there are bigger challenges to close out first.Garth Forsberg

    yip, me too.
    Something to consider too is hypocrisy and optics to a staff member who has suggested a better way, and is turned down due to 'rules' and 'bigger problems'.
    More appropriate might be figuring out some guidance and boundaries for what the company is comfortable with in this space (especially if this person's line manager feels along similar lines to Andrew above), which is actually what you are doing :). Maybe your staff member would be interested in being involved in this too.

    Did you find this?
    https://www.nzta.govt.nz/walking-cycling-and-public-transport/cycling/workplace-cycling-guide/
    https://www.nzta.govt.nz/walking-cycling-and-public-transport/cycling/workplace-cycling-guide/resources/
  • Yonny Yeung
    4
    Having been knocked off my bike for a couple of times on the road, I would only ride off road / in a park / carless spaces these days. Too risky on the road for me.

    There are companies I have worked for that specifically excludes mode of transport with less than four tyres. That was doing deliveries.

    Having been T-boned at the driver's door by someone who ran through a red light while I was doing a delivery, I would have definitely got hurt if I wasn't in a car. Their vehicle was written off. My vehicle repair cost was just under market value, so it got repaired.

    Interesting to see that company and other companies in the same group now changed the stance on motorcycle delivery, they are now allowing it. It would work better in busy cities where it's hard to get a park, but it riskier for getting hurt.

    I have been renting electric scooters for short journeys in the city. It's fairly low risk on the footpath, but you do have to keep your wits about you, as driveways are the biggest hazard.

    I think individuals should be able to choose whether they want to take the bike or scooter or even walk. I wouldn't be focusing on whether work is liable if someone gets hurt while biking / walking to and from places for work. You get covered by ACC anyway.
  • Matthew Bennett
    23
    This is one of those areas where H+S gets accused of being out of control. On one side of the timesheet people are being actively encouraged to be more active, to use public transport and walk and / or cycle to work. Then, the very second they step in the door we wrap them up in bureaucracy and remove any individual decision making from them.
    - I am fully cognizant of the legal duty to provide for H+S at work. It has been established that the workplace extends to include a vehicle, this would include a bicycle, when being used for the purpose of work.
    - This is a thinking exercise: before starting a 'risk assessment' establish the parameters (size) of the question.
    - metal vs squishy thing is a lovely poster slogan. How about force? mass * acceleration? a car at 1000kg + travelling at 100km/h - force = harm. A bicycle at 12kg going 25km/h (maybe)?
    - Risk Assessments need to be undertaken / include 'subject matter experts'. Unless you ride a bicycle of regular basis in a same / similar environment I question if the SME standard has been met. Its the difference between real and perceived.
    - The principle(s) of safe travel: Safe driver (rider in this case), safe vehicle, safe journey.
    * A safe rider is a competency and judgment question. For drivers most businesses assume that a drivers Licence is proof of this, however do little to nothing to validate this.
    * Bicycles are extremely safe - highly maneuverable and excellent stopping distances. (I am being a little provocative with this claim, in order to stimulate thinking)
    * It is the 'journey' that creates the risk to cyclists. A lack of cycle lanes in our city and urban spaces, and drivers that drive with a sense of entitlement over the space. How many businesses require the staff to use the 'dutch door opening' method so that they don't harm cyclists?

    My personal H+S ethos is to 'never say no'. Rather I seek to embrace opportunities that the business wants to explore and to enable it.

    So, when in my previous business we introduced electric bikes and electric scooters for city trips, the challenge was to introduce them with the fewest number of barriers to uptake. An organizational maintenance and inspection programme was implemented to ensure they continued to function properly. No operational rules or requirements were implemented. A 5 minute user video was produced, watching it was optional. Coaching sessions were available upon request. No requirements of when they should or shouldn't be used were put in place. People were simply empowered to make a choice for themself.

    After 3 years car use for trips under 4km were down approx. 50%. No bicycle or scooter incidents had been reported (fully acknowledge that this is a weak lag indicator, however still and indicator) and no reports received for unsafe of inappropriate use. In the initial months of introduction about 45 coaching sessions were done.
    - People self selected, and were empowered to make the right decision for themselves.
    In the same timeframe I had in look into 4 incidents were one of our drivers failed to perceive / giveaway to a cyclist.

    Cycling is awesome for people who like it, and people who don't should not feel compelled to do use them. So Garth, have confidence that people can ride bikes at work.

    On a slight tangent / extension, I was recently asked to look into work methods to undertake environmental monitoring a a large forest area, with an extensive network of cycle trails. They were proposing using motorbikes or quad bikes and were concerned about being hit by mountain bikers! To do the work on foot would take in excess of 40hrs. It could be ridden in less than a day. The motorbike expert assessed the terrain as 'highly challenging requiring an expert level of skill'. The monitoring is being done by mtn bike. The requirements: any monitoring personnel must have undertaken a competency assessment from an SME, their bike must have been inspected / serviced by a suitably skilled person (bike mechanic) and they must keep their wheels on the ground. They love their work day (although I'm sure they'd love to jump a little more ;-).
  • MattD2
    288
    On a slight tangent / extension, I was recently asked to look into work methods to undertake environmental monitoring a a large forest area, with an extensive network of cycle trails. They were proposing using motorbikes or quad bikes and were concerned about being hit by mountain bikers! To do the work on foot would take in excess of 40hrs. It could be ridden in less than a day. The motorbike expert assessed the terrain as 'highly challenging requiring an expert level of skill'. The monitoring is being done by mtn bike. The requirements: any monitoring personnel must have undertaken a competency assessment from an SME, their bike must have been inspected / serviced by a suitably skilled person (bike mechanic) and they must keep their wheels on the ground. They love their work day (although I'm sure they'd love to jump a little more ;-).Matthew Bennett

    You entire post is a great illustration of what risk assessment should look like - it is not about stopping unsafe work from occurring, but about enabling work to be done safely.

    And your example at the end is right on the mark for this - including considering the match between the workers and the work. I am sure that there was at least a few moderately skilled recreational mountain bikers in the company eager to take on that work - and by setting the expectations around the work you are able to select the lowest risk method to complete the work.

    And also the point of thinking outside of just the risk to your worker, and consider the system as a whole. The fact that having any employee be made to drive a car (because the potential consequences of cycling are more serious in a car vs cyclist accident) actually exposes a significant greater number of people to that risk (other pedestrians / cyclists that the worker may now interact with in their car). So if you are considering the risk to everyone that (may) be affected by this choice, cycling may actually be the safe option.
  • Aaron Marshall
    88
    I'm with Matthew on this one, and he's provided an excellent example.

    Have you also considered the fact that in allowing cycling, you're reducing the risk to the general public posed by your employee driving? This would include risks such as legal liability, insurance, etc as well.
  • Andrew
    340

    Gee> I wouldn't be using mountain bikers as the exemplar.

    I've got one of those. Had a fall with quite a significant head injury. Completed our Return To Work program.

    What does he do? Goes mountain biking again
    What happens. Has another fall
    What's the consequence. Another significant head injury.
    Where am I? Grumpy because I have another RTW to deal with and more lost productivity.
  • MattD2
    288
    We must keep reminding ourselves that we work in occupational health and safety :wink:
    They looked at the work being done my motorbike and deemed that to risky, they considered walking but time constraints were an issue (plus if they were using the mountain bike trails for access would it not be a risk of having a crazy mountain biker like the one you have had to deal with taking them out on a blind corner or the other side of a jump!).
    They considered what they could do to minimize the risk while riding - not screaming down the hill pulling off sick air! - and set the expectations for the work. Seemed like decent risk management to me - rather than calling the worker a risk based on a hobby they have outside of work and pulling the "can't do it cus of H&S" card.
  • Janene Magson
    9
    All good and well - I do know that many a business in Wellington have offered the option to employees to scooter/ walk or cycle to meetings within close proximity. At my husbands work they have now received E-bikes, the foldable ones - No training or safety brief, at the very least - 2nd day......employee falls of and fractures wrist, cannot drive a car, and this car usage is his main task. Their HS was not even consulted :)
  • MattD2
    288
    employee falls of and fractures wrist, cannot drive a car, and this car usage is his main task. Their HS was not even consultedJanene Magson
    To be honest - the issue isn't "H&S" wasn't consulted, it is that it seems that their procurement process doesn't include to identify and assess new types of equipment for risk prior to purchase and/or use.
  • Matthew Bennett
    23
    Hmmm. I'm not sure I consider this good. 'Okay' perhaps, not great? Waka Kotahi is strongly encouraging the use of bikes here which is great to see. To a person / business that doesn't have strong H+S thinking these resources do help navigate into the space, however in some ways its a lot of what makes people repel from H+S - a whole reem of paperwork, full of jargon and tech speak, broiled in compliance and little practical application.
    • If we surveyed 1000 riders, how many would a) gain any benefit from reading the risk matrix, and b) remain engaged with us for more than the second row?
    The AKL Council tool has some useful dimensions.

    So, much of Waka Kotahi's info is about providing support for people that are uncertain on how to enter this space, which is good to see they are providing. A good (suitable and sufficient?) risk assessment (process) must include a subject matter expert and then a lot of the barriers inherent in h+s bureaucracy falls away. Think of this:
    • How many parents have a checklist for when they start putting their children onto a bike? (literally, thousands do this every year)
    • How many businesses have a competency test for walking down stairs? (the majority of us do this daily - have we thought about the consequences of falling down them?)
    Strip away the clutter and what is left is what really counts - in this case: suitability of the vehicle for the task and a maintenance program to keep it working.
  • Chris Hyndman
    59
    If there was ever an example of where we as H&S professionals should stay in our lane and concentrate on controlling the risk, not the hazard, then this is it!

    While we can assess the risks associated from travelling this short route by bike, we aren't in the business of fixing holistic hazards associated with travelling by bike on NZ roads.

    If travelling this short route by bike falls inside your risk appetite then there's no reason why it shouldn't go ahead on H&S grounds.
  • Steve Boulton
    5
    Garth,

    As you may recall from when we both worked at Dynamic Controls I am a keen cyclist and still am.

    Let your man ride his bike between work sites.

    The holistic ESG perspective is what needs to be considered here. Incrementally, it will result in one less four wheeled vehicle on the road and, you never know, it may promote Christchurch becoming the Amsterdam of the southern hemisphere.
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