Get this cycle safety show on the road
John Hix, project director of Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety (CLOCS), on why the clock is ticking for construction road safety.
UK roads are busier than ever before, and there have been huge increases in the number of cyclists and construction vehicles using urban areas in particular. The growing popularity of cycling has been particularly noticeable in London, where the number of daily cycling trips has doubled since 2000 to 600,000.
Although the overall number of deaths and serious injuries on the roads is falling, the number of cyclist fatalities increased between 2001 and 2012. Heavy goods vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes are involved in about 15% of cyclist and 10% of pedestrian fatalities. A high proportion of HGVs involved in cyclist fatalities operate in the construction supply chain.
The CLOCS – Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety – movement was born out of a report into HGV-related accidents in 2012. Led by the construction industry, it is a co-ordinated response and commitment to improve road safety.
The three main focuses of this work are: improving vehicle safety; redrawing the boundaries of health and safety to address the imbalance between onsite and on-road safety; and encouraging best practice across the industry through the CLOCS Standard – a national benchmark that brings together a formerly confusing number of industry policies and codes.
In just two years, the response from the industry has been huge. There are now more than 130 “CLOCS Champions” committed to the project. The organisation receives between 130 and 140 enquiries every month. And interest does not seem to be driven particularly by fatalities, as we have not found any spikes in activity immediately after fatal accidents. This is good news, as it suggests companies are being proactive in managing their road risk.
More than 25 construction clients are already on board, bringing more than 600 construction sites within the CLOCS movement. Some of the biggest names in the industry have committed – among them Laing O’Rourke, Mace, Skanska and Land Securities – reflecting the desire to make this a truly industry-owned initiative with nationwide application.
Other industries, such as utility and general haulage companies, are also starting to adopt some of the tools and guidance developed by CLOCS.
The initiative is also linked with other construction-related and cycle-safety campaigns. The Considerate Constructors Scheme is signposting CLOCS as a way to manage and improve road risk; CLOCS is submitting a chapter for the The Construction Industry Handbook – the “Blue Book”; and the organisation is working with eight cities on the government’s Cycle City Ambition scheme and is in talks with the Construction Industry Cycling Commission about opportunities to spread the message.
CLOCS has thrown a spotlight on the design of construction vehicles and how they can be made safer. Under the commitment to the CLOCS Standard, the 17,600 vehicles used by member operators and clients have been given retrofit safety equipment, including sideguards, mirrors, camera and sensor systems, and left-turn audible alarms.
CLOCS’ ultimate aim is to eliminate blind spots entirely, by developing vehicles that have increased direct driver vision, through larger or more windows and lower cabs. There were 15 examples of these optimised vehicles on display at a CLOCS event in February, including models from Mercedes-Benz (pictured below), Volvo, Scania and MAN.
More needs to be done. Enforcement officers from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and London police forces working for the Industrial HGV Task Force have found that 80% of construction HGVs stopped at the side of the road are not legally compliant with the current, fairly basic safety requirements.
In September the bar will be raised. The new London-wide Safer Lorry Scheme will also be enforced by the Industrial HGV task force. There will be a £50 fixed penalty for any driver of a non-compliant vehicle, fines of up to £1,000 and the risk of having operators’ licences being suspended by the Traffic Commissioner.
With construction clients increasingly deciding that they do not want to be associated with operators that flout the rules, it is becoming simply good business to manage road risk. The costs to a company of a fatal accident are huge, not to mention the impact on reputation and on the well-being of the drivers themselves. But the framework is in place. Health and safety has long been a part of the workplace. Now is the time to take responsibility for road safety too.