More than two months after a spate of delivery rider deaths on Sydney roads, a SafeWork NSW taskforce has found riders’ lack of familiarity with NSW road rules and the use of “poorly maintained and unsafe” bicycles or motorbikes were common hazards that led to injuries.
The Gig Economy Joint Taskforce was set up to investigate after four fatal traffic incidents in late 2020, and on Monday issued draft guidelines to food delivery companies and riders, in a bid to provide better protection for workers.
Two men working for Uber Eats died following collisions in late September, while another fatality occurred in November after a crash with a car at Rockdale in Sydney’s south.
A fourth man died after being hit by a truck carrying an excavator in Redfern in November.
Unrealistic delivery times need to change
The taskforce said common hazards that needed to be managed included “unsafe systems of work”, like “poorly designed apps” and “unrealistic estimated delivery times” resulting in time pressures and unsafe riding.
The guidelines call on delivery companies to make sure the app used by riders is designed to be used safely on the road and is based on average rider speeds and traffic conditions, to not result in “unreasonable time pressures and physical exhaustion”.
They also call on companies to design their apps to recognise rider fatigue, so they can lock riders out after 12 hours of working and not allow them to log back in for another 10 hours.
The provider should ensure riders demonstrate an understanding of the NSW road and bike rules and have annual refresher training, the guidelines also say.
Other common hazards identified were riders using e-bikes that were not approved for use in NSW.
Transport and Roads Minister Andrew Constance said delivery platforms, riders and restaurants needed to follow the guidelines to mitigate dangers.
“We know these food delivery riders are some of our most vulnerable road users,” he said.
“We want to do everything we can to guarantee they have the proper protections in place and ensure a day at work doesn’t end in tragedy.”
Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson said the guidelines were being introduced to make the gig economy safer and save lives.
“We’ve developed these strategies in partnership with industry to help food delivery operators, drivers and restaurants understand their obligations under NSW work health and safety legislation,” Mr Anderson said.
“The guidelines are about making sure that industry participants understand how the legislation we have in place applies to them, to ensure that our laws are fit for purpose and protect every worker in this state,” he said.
“We will continue to consult with industry on the draft guidelines, with a view to finalising them for inclusion into an Industry Safety Action Plan that will be released in April.
Ash, a delivery rider, said the guidelines were “long overdue”.
“It’s a good starting point … at least we’re getting government enterprises looking at this issue,” he said.
“Guidelines are definitely not going to be enough of an incentive to get these companies to change their behaviour.”
He said the culture of the work was the key risk to riders on the roads.
“The big risk at the end of the day is an accumulation of the effects of no laws that properly regulate the industry and companies that have a big economic incentive to put pressure on the rider and lower the wages for that rider as well,” he said.
A TWU statement welcomed government attention on the “safety crisis in food delivery”.
But TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said direct intervention by government was needed.
“A non-binding, piecemeal or retrospective approach will entirely miss the mark and allow companies to continue to drive down pay and standards and endanger more lives,” he said.