Throwing a wrench into MVAs

Throwing a wrench into MVAs

South Africa has one of the worst overall motor vehicle accident (MVA) rates in the world, according to the World Health Organization’s 2018 road safety report. And the construction industry is also suffering …

The report revealed that there are around one million accidents per year and 31,9% fatalities per 100 000 people.

According to Federated Employers Mutual Assurance Company (FEM) – the workmen’s compensation insurer for the building industry – 929 of these accidents per year involved people working within the construction industry. “While this may seem low, the cost per accident is detrimental,” says Deon Bester, occupational health and safety manager at Master Builders Association Western Cape.

“FEM’s latest statistics show that the total number of vehicle crashes in the construction industry amounted to 4 602 from January 2015 to December 2019, which cost a whopping R351 945 735, with 66 883 workdays lost.”

In order to address health and safety issues, FEM started a campaign several years ago called “Safetember”. Its first campaign focused on reducing the high number of MVAs in the construction industry.

“The campaign was aimed at making policyholders more aware of the current situation and sought ways to address the problem. This campaign now encapsulates all the health and safety issues related to construction, including the MVAs, which account for around 10% of all injuries related to construction work,” says Bester.

He points out that an industry currently experiencing one of its worst downturns, with limited work available, can ill afford to spend almost R352 million on accidents that are avoidable, according to the statistics provided by FEM.

“The cost of implementing measures to mitigate these accidents is negligible compared to the cost of these accidents – even before taking into account the loss of life. In many instances, the person who loses his or her life is the main breadwinner in a home.”

Current information shows that the main causes of MVAs in the construction industry are speeding, drivers not taking into consideration the load on the vehicle, overloading of vehicles, unroadworthy vehicles and incompetent drivers.

And the numbers remain high considering the type of legislation South Africa has in place governing the use of public roads, as well as the Construction Regulations of 2014, says Bester. “The permissible method of transporting workers in the back of a goods vehicle (or bakkie) is very clearly described in the legislation.” Enforcement of this legislation, however, remains problematic.

The legislation essentially states that companies aren’t allowed to transport people in and on a goods vehicle, such as a bakkie or truck, unless there is a barrier high and strong enough to prevent them from falling out during an accident. If they’re seated, the barrier must be at least 350 mm high; if they’re standing, it must be at least 900 mm high. Plus, any tools or goods must be carried in such a way that they cannot fly around and injure the passengers during an accident.

“My own experience while travelling on our major highways is that it is rare to see one of these vehicles that fail to meet the safety guidelines being pulled off the road by law enforcement officials,” he adds. “It is my contention that there needs to be a specialised licensing procedure for anyone who transports employees in the load bay of a bakkie. This would go a long way to making the drivers aware of the dangers they pose to the people carried on these vehicles and should help reduce the high number of accidents currently experienced in the industry.”

Contractors have no, or very little, control over what happens on the highways. Bester believes that they rely on traffic law enforcement officers to police the vehicles being used to transport workers. He acknowledges, however, that transporting employees on open vehicles is and will always be part of the industry in South Africa.

“We need to accept that the status quo will not change in the foreseeable future. Employees will continue to be transported on open vehicles: it is how we manage the situation in the future that will determine our success in reducing motor vehicle accidents.”

Get your car Covid-ready

As the days warm up and regulations are being eased, people are getting ready to tackle the open roads. Continental has some tips on what to watch out for (before you set out on your journey).

Have your tyres got enough tread, and are the pressures right?

Regular tyre checks are vital. Your tyres are what keep your vehicle in touch with the road. It’s the tyres that enable many systems – including ABS, the electronic stability programme (ESP) and emergency brake assist – to deliver their full potential.

One key factor is tread depth. The legal lower limit in South Africa is 1 mm. But tyre experts at Continental recommend replacing your tyres when they get below 3 mm of the tread.

Low tyre pressure can also extend the braking distance on wet roads; it also affects the precision of the steering, as well as the durability of the tyre. Excessive heat build-up on underinflated tyres contributes to premature tyre failure.

You will find the correct tyre pressures in the owner’s manual or on a sticker on the driver’s door pillar.

Facemasks and disinfectant: What you need on a visit to the workshop

An all-round technical check-up of your vehicle is important too: oil level, brakes, battery, lights, coolant and the windshield washer/wiper system should all be checked.

Changing the windscreen wipers is typically an easy do-it-yourself task, but checking the battery is a job for the experts, as getting stuck on the side of the road with a flat battery isn’t only inconvenient, it is dangerous as well.

The best place for this is your local car dealer or repair workshop. But, when heading for the workshop, here are a few things to remember. Social distancing policies remain in place. As a result, workshops may not be operating with a full staff complement, so queues that are longer than expected or delays in bookings may be experienced. Contact the workshop and make an appointment.

New coronavirus-led rules for inspections and warranty cover

Some manufacturers have prolonged the original and extended warranties offered on new cars because customers have recently been unable to visit authorised workshops to have repairs carried out.

Contact your dealer if your vehicle has reached its distance or time limits for scheduled services, or if maintenance or warranty work needs to be completed – particularly if the standard or extended warranty, service plan or maintenance plan is due to expire, or lapsed during the Level 5 and Level 4 of the Covid-19 lockdown.

It’s important to note that manufacturers’ standard terms remain for services, maintenance plans and warranties outside of this timeframe – so don’t be caught short when your vehicle’s cover lapses as a result of exceeding these limits.

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