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Lower speed limits in school zones are deeply respected and obeyed by the community. Why should road work zones be any different?

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About this seminar

Downer Infrastructure Services maintains more than 40,000 km of road in Australia. Between January 2012 and July 2016, the organisation recorded 3665 near misses relating to driving members of the public doing the wrong thing on their worksites.

Road workers face speeding and aggressive drivers on an almost daily basis, placing them in dangerous and scary situations. Workers report being verbally and physically abused, spat at and even threatened with speeding vehicles.

While the organisation ensures its road work sites use traffic management systems and warning signage to lower speeds and protect their workers, their workers’ experience is that drivers don’t respect work zones in the same way they do school zones.

Downer developed a near-miss reporting system that empowered workers to voice their concerns about safety risks on the worksite. They have also examined the emotive links of driver behaviour in school zones compared to work zones, with intriguing results.

Watch this broadcast to see what one organisation is doing to improve their workers’ safety through public awareness and culture.

Who is this seminar for?

Anyone working in transport and construction, especially road workers and associated industry associations, will find this very informative, as will academics and policy makers with an interest in road safety. Commuters and road users will also gain some valuable insights from this broadcast.

About the presenters

Jim Appleby from Downer Infrastructure Services presents this broadcast. Jim is the National General Manager of road surfacing. He has strong expertise in strategic business management, team leadership, and complex contract delivery in roads, highways and airfields.

This broadcast is supported by the National Road and Safety Partnership Program and the Australian Road and Research Board.

Additional resources

School zone vs work zone – there is no difference

Rosemary Pattison
Quality and RTO Officer
Knowledge Transfer – ARRB Group

P: +61 3 9881 1590, E: training@arrb.com.au

Good morning everyone. It is wonderful to have you listening in to our webinar, School Zone vs Work Zone – What’s the difference?

This webinar is proudly brought to you by the National Road Safety Partnership Program, or NRSPP, in partnership with ARRB Group and of course the Downer Group.

My name is Rosemary Pattison and I will be your moderator today. I will co-moderate the session and provide tech support.

So we’ll just click through. Thank you Jim.

My esteemed colleague Jerome who manages the NRSPP and its many activities joins me in the studio as our primary moderator today.

Jerome Carslake
NRSPP Manager
ARRB Group
P: +61 3 9881 1670, E: Jerome.carslake@arrb.com.au

Thank you very much Rosemary.

Rosemary Pattison:

Thank you Jerome. For anyone joining us for the first time, could you tell us a little more about NRSPP and its purpose?

Jerome Carslake:

Certainly. The NRSPP has been established to provide a collaborative network for Australian businesses and organisations to help them create a positive road safety culture both internally and externally. It aims to help all organisations of all sizes across all sectors to share and build road safety initiatives specific to their own workplace and beyond.

It’s delivered by ARRB and funded primarily by government coalition and ARRB, and I’m really looking forward to hearing from Jim today. This has actually been one webinar I’ve been lining up for a long time, so it’s with pleasure we can actually hear all about Jim’s experience at Downer.

Jim Appleby
National General Manager, Road Surfacing
P: 0407 666 947, E: Jim.Appleby@downergroup.com

Good morning.

Rosemary Pattison:

Good morning Jim.

Jim Appleby:

Good morning Rosemary.

Rosemary Pattison:

And we’d like to thank Jerome for getting this happening, and thanks to Jim. It’s my absolute pleasure to welcome Jim to the studio today. Jim Appleby. Jim is currently National General Manager, Road Surfacing for Downer Infrastructure Services. Jim has strong expertise in the areas of strategic business management, team leadership and complex contract delivery in roads, highways and airfields.

Jim joined Downer Infrastructure in 2011 with a vision of zero harm workplace through embracing behavioural change. Jim has a passion for the asphalt industry and its people. So over to you Jim. Let’s get started.

Jim Appleby:

Good morning everybody, and thank you for the opportunity to talk to you today about what I think is a critical subject for road safety and particularly those that work on it.

The presentation is titled School Zone vs Work Zone, What’s the Difference? And really I’m posing a question to you the audience regarding that. As you can see on the slide we have two very similar situations, the school zone and the work zone, both of which many people interact with on a regular basis, both of which are mums and dads employed, and moving and working around an area, managing traffic, managing the safety of people on foot around that.

Both require drivers to observe limits and respect the work they’re doing in order to do with safety and allow both the sites and the public to function around that.

One’s controlled by a crossing assistant, or as I would term a lollypop lady or gentleman, and the other is controlled by a traffic controller. And the reality is to me there is no difference.

But there are some startlingly different facts when you dig under the surface. And I want to focus very much on our work zones because of the data we’ve collected and amassed over the last few years.

And just to point out between January 2012 and July 2016 we’ve recorded 3,665 near misses of members of the public doing the wrong thing as they travel through our work sites. Now every night we have up to 2,000 people on the network facing some quite serious dangers, many which we aren’t directly in control of and the public play their part in. And this data is profound about the dangers we face, which is why we wanted to compare it to a school zone where I think you’d see the levels are vastly different because of how the public perceive the work that’s going on.

Jerome Carslake:

How different is that? Why would that be?

Jim Appleby:

I think, and rightfully so, a crossing assistant is held in very, very high esteem in the community. They’re there protecting our future generations, our children. And I think a 40 zone is - people are compelled through their moral obligation to obey the speed limit, and the crossing assistant is there doing some dutiful work for our future generation. I think that’s the view of the public. I think in terms of the roadworks we’re considered a nuisance.

Jerome Carslake:

The training of those two people, what difference is there? Is there much between a lollypop and a controller?

Jim Appleby:

Almost identical, and the service they offer is almost identical. It’s keeping the public and the traffic and pedestrians safe around their work zone, and that work zone is outside of a school or on a road. So almost identical activity.

Rosemary Pattison:

And we’ve got an interesting comment from John. Do you want to read that Jerome?

Jerome Carslake:

Certainly.

Q:           Surely the difference is that the police enforce legislated rules. They don’t enforce a ‘nice to have’.

Jim Appleby:

I think that could be a valid point John, and maybe one we explore as we move through the next few slides in the presentation.

So what we see at our work sites is – the 3,665 we broke down into three areas. So these are reported by people from our work sites, and as you can see we’ve got 44 percent or 1,600, just over, people breaking traffic rules or just careless driving. Nearly 900 occurrences of speeding, and as we all know speed kills. Above 40 kilometres an hour you’re literally in the lap of the Gods as to whether you survive on impact or not.

And really worrying is the 32 percent of verbal and physical abuse, and I mean physical abuse also. So we’ve had nearly 1,200 cases where the public have felt the need to interact with us when actually we’re trying to do our jobs. The worry is that’s gone up dramatically. We’re seeing more and more of this abuse coming back to us, which tells me fundamentally there’s something not right.

Jerome Carslake:

Is there specific areas? Is it happening more in regional? Is it happening more in certain states, or is it happening more in cities, or where is this sort of aggression coming from?

Jim Appleby:

When you look at the data breakdown – and remember we use data for this. This isn’t guesswork – we see the metro areas or the big cities, the main conurbations where it’s dramatically higher. In the regional – I’ve got to be honest, the regional data shows actually that the drivers and the interaction with the public is much better, and inherently all the guys feel much safer, even on the higher speed roads.

And that abuse factor is profound.

Rosemary Pattison:

Interesting.

Jerome Carslake:

Actually we’ve just got a question through here from Don.

Q:           Has any research been done on how many incidents occur at school crossings under supervision of a SCS?

Jim Appleby:

I haven’t got access to that data, but what I did do is do a bit of Google mining just to see what I could pick up. I couldn’t find many incidents at all. I could find one reference in The Courier-Mail last year about they’d seen 70 acts of speeding through a school zone, and that was picked up data.

From what I’ve seen and the data I can mine, it is far safer than it is on a roadworks site.

I’m just going to give you a few seconds just to have a look at maybe one or two examples of the words spoken by people who call our near miss line – and this is their words, not our interpretation – to give you some understanding of the abuse and the situations they face in their words rather than ours. I’ll just give you a few seconds.

Rosemary Pattison:

Just while our audience are reading those through Jerome, which one sticks out for you?

Jerome Carslake:

There’s multiple ones. There’s ones here when – I think people don’t realise how abuse affects people. Abused the TC and had a female TC almost in tears, and another one when they’re actually getting things thrown at them. So what are these sort of things being thrown at – and then what do you do to deal with some of these people and the abuse they have to put up with on the roads? How do you find that as the manager of them all?

Jim Appleby:

We have a legal and moral obligation to our staff to keep them safe. We try and do things around their wellbeing and promote things like conflict resolution, but as a car comes past he’s gone. I’ll tell you first hand I was hit by a bottle once on the M4 in Sydney, and this is the sort of things we face. This is just their words, you know. We take it really seriously, which is why we’re here today, to try and enlist some help towards making it a little bit of a better experience for those doing their jobs.

Jerome Carslake:

What’s the sort of makeup of the workforce that’s out there, of your guys that are out there?

Jim Appleby:

Interestingly our traffic controllers I’d say are around about 60/40 percent, 60 men, 40 ladies. So it’s actually a really balanced workforce. We find female traffic controllers particularly are superb at diffusing situations. You know, they really are much more in tune with that. And we look for a balanced workforce here.

 

Rosemary Pattison:

Awesome We’ve had two questions there Jerome. Would you like…

Jerome Carslake:

One of the ones we’ve got here we can sort of hold through, because I know Jim will be answering that in a moment, about where the data’s come from and how you’ve put all that together. So that’s something to look forward to very soon.

Rosemary Pattison:

Okay. Well thank you for the questions. Keep them coming in. We’ll ask them along the way.

Jim Appleby:

And this is one of the main questions. So the experiences I’ve just told you about on the roadworks site, if it was a school zone what would happen? And I’ve just put down there five points that I think would come into action very, very quickly. Double demerits – if you want to speed through a school zone you’re going to face a penalty. There would be press interest. I found one article in The Courier-Mail recently, however if this level of information was being sought from crossing assistants the press would be all over it. There would be public outcry I can assure you. If it was going through the school zone of my little girls, there would be a public outcry.

There would be political involvement. Politicians would be enlisted to drive change, and we think there would be immediate action with this level of data that we’ve picked up if this was a school zone. So I actually think the school zone and the work zone are out of kilter when it’s doing exactly the same job.

Jerome Carslake:

For those of you out there, we had the list from Jim of some of the things his data has put up, and Evan’s raised a really good one here saying in Queensland there was even a traffic controller who was shot at last year, not with Downer but another traffic controller nonetheless.

Jim Appleby:

Yep. It’s terrifying. It’s a terrifying thought. And you know, we need to drive a behavioural change to make it more palatable.

Jerome Carslake:

So for you, how do you – I guess we’ll be touching on this very soon and further, but thinking how do you supply your staff with a safe workplace?

Jim Appleby:

We start at elimination as you should, in eliminating risks. So we would prefer a road closure wherever possible to limit the amount of interaction we have to have with the public. But we also take our obligations really seriously. You know, conflict resolution, better planning to make it easier for the public to navigate our works, trying to take away some of those frustrations that we can inflict upon ourselves occasionally. Working with the likes of TMC in Sydney, who are very methodical about how it allows works to happen on the network to try and reduce the effect that roadworks causes. There can be congestion quite obviously for closing roads and closing lanes, so in a much more organised fashion.

But you know, the challenges will always be there. It’s really interesting. To me we spend our life fixing what every motorist breaks. All we’re doing is repairing the damage that the cars and the trucks and all other vehicles do to the network, and we get abused for it. Now in my eyes if we stopped doing that, if this industry said ‘No more, we’re done,’ it would be very quick to see how public opinion would change and drive it when the roads weren’t possible. Can’t get to work, the economic infrastructure is affected. This is a serious subject. And that’s all we’re doing. We aren’t out there just for the good of our health, we’re out there repairing the network. That’s what we’re employed to do by the public, and we have to face peril for that.

And lots of drivers – don’t get me wrong, we interface with huge amounts of the public, and the public sentiment is always reasonable with the majority. However there are people out there who clearly see us as an issue when we’re just trying to fix what their very car breaks. There’s that perception.

Rosemary Pattison:

You’ve got weather and everything as well to battle.

Jim Appleby:

We have multiple conditions, you know. Zero harm is at the heart of our business, and I know if I was speaking on behalf of any of our competitors they’re no different. And you know, we have to worry on multiple fronts and manage our risks on multiple fronts. So every bit of help we get can only be assistance.

Jerome Carslake:

And looking at some of the feedback coming through as well, it appears even some of the school zones aren’t alone. One fellow, David:

Q:           My wife is a crossing supervisor and she has given up reporting drive throughs because they never get acted on. So we need more education so drivers understand the laws applicable to work zones and children’s crossings.

Jim Appleby:

We have to create that link to people. Your car will – in an argument between a car and a human being, I’ve never seen one report of a human being winning.

And I genuinely believe we don’t have to accept this is the status quo. We’re better than this in the society. We’re in a wonderful country. We have a wonderful life, and we should accept better.

One of the questions earlier was about where the data comes from. So we use a near miss line to identify it. So I’m just going to give you a brief overview as to how that works.

So a near miss is a report and it has a really complicated definition which is there on the screen. I’m not going to try and read it, because I get lost halfway down. But in essence if the box falls on the chap’s head, that’s an incident. If it falls anywhere near where he thinks it’s unsafe, that is a near miss. So what we’re trying to promote is people reporting things that nearly happen.

And it’s based on a theory from a guy called Frank Bird who came up with Bird’s Triangle. He went across industry, he looked at 2.5 million incidents and came up with the following synopsis really. And what he said is that for every fatality you’ve had, there will have been ten times there’s been a serious injury in that category. He said there’s also 30 times there will have been a minor injury in that category.

But really interestingly what he also said is that over 600 times there will have been a near miss. Now a lot of people look at the triangle and say so if you get to 601 near misses somebody dies. The important word is over. So there will have been at least 600 times it nearly happened.

So we use Bird’s Triangle to try and create some data, and we use this as our philosophy. So at Downer, a near miss – and I’ll give us a little plug – we call it ‘Mate that was bloody close’. The ‘bloody’ was a slightly different word at the start, but I got overruled. But it’s built on the values of Australian mateship, and it’s been going for four years. It’s a very simple theory for our guys and girls to understand. You ring a telephone number, you leave a message. At that point we deal with the whole data stream, the trend analysis, the feedback to people who’ve called. So it’s really simple, and that’s why we think our teams like it. It’s not a big burden to make it work.

And the picture at the side is Beaconsfield mine disaster, and we put that up as a great example of Australian mateship because we’ve got into this. The reality is the mine disaster may possibly have been avoided had the near miss reporting have been better. So it’s a double edge sword now.

Rosemary Pattison:

How interesting.

Jim Appleby:

And that’s the report. So you may think that doesn’t sound too many. I would hazard a guess, and certainly on talking to other people from the construction industry, the level of reporting within the Downer roads business is mammoth. So to give you an example, most companies would tell you 100 reports a month is exceptional. We’re getting nearly 1,000 reports a month at the moment. So the culture of reporting is really good on a full range of near misses, not just about the public, but about some of the things we get wrong as well. And so we’ve got 17,500 data points to actually do trend analysis.

Jerome Carslake:

But is it a bad thing that there’s so many reports coming in? Does that mean things are going bad, or what does that mean?

Jim Appleby:

Until you understand the depth of the issues, you’ll never understand the real problems and how to solve them. Some people would say you’ve got that many near miss reports, you must be really unsafe. If you look statistically, our lag indicators, our LTIs and MTIs are extremely low. We are well ahead of what the mining industry would operate at when it comes to the benchmark. So our lag indicators support that our safety performance is really good. I actually think this is realistic of what’s really going on in the world. I think it is a dangerous environment, and not having a line of sight – you know, ignorance is not bliss. Just because you don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. I’d encourage anybody to open in to near miss reporting to get a real understanding of where the challenges are that they face.

As I’ve said it gives us lots of data, and we can look at data in many, many different ways. So we can look at it by state, location, business unit, by time of the day, by the person reporting if they wish to leave a name, and all manner of different approaches.

And I put this slide up with some shame to be honest, but data is the source of all truths. At a conference last year in Sydney I presented and I suggested using the data we had, understanding where we are, how many traffic controllers we have, how many traffic controllers we believe are in Australia. I predicted within 28 days there’d be a serious incident involving a traffic controller in Australia, and I’m really sad to report that I was wrong by one day. I’m really sad to report that it happened at all, but a TC in Queensland – not in the Downer business let me add – was tragically killed by a member of the public. So data being the source of all truths is important.

Jerome Carslake:

I can remember getting an email from you when you said ‘Look, sadly this has happened’.

Jim Appleby:

Yep. And at that conference I told people we had 28 days to change our ways and change our business. It’s a constant challenge. You know, we have to see it for what it is and do things about it.

What we use Bird’s Triangle for is to think differently, and this is at the heart of near miss really. We don’t think it’s just one trial, and we think Frank was slightly wrong. I don’t know if Frank’s still around to tell that, but that’s just our interpretation. Because near miss is built on risk, so we think the more near miss data you’re getting, the more people are reporting, the more opportunity you have to stop the incident. So the blue is the nothing’s happened, nobody’s been hurt. Everything above the blue is somebody is being hurt or something is being damaged. So the more you understand, the more chances you have to reduce that, and that’s reflected in our own safety performance as well. So it seems to bear fruit. We’re comfortable with the approach we have.

Jerome Carslake:

And when someone identifies a near miss, do they provide a solution or do they have the opportunity to do that as well?

Jim Appleby:

It’s really interesting as we watch this change over time. Rather than now just report, many people are telling you what’s happened and what they’ve done to fix it. So we think the near miss reporting line, as well as several other initiatives we’ve done, has started to change the DNA of our people, to become proactive rather than passing the responsibility to everybody else to solve it, which is just gratifying when you read it. People are thinking differently, and that’s where we wanted to go.

We’re working on several things. You know, all the problems don’t sit with the public. Trust me. We have many of our own and we’re more than aware of that, around traffic movement particularly and public interface. We put certain exclusion zones into play. We spent a lot of money this year making sure we rolled out a really simple rule, which has gone down really well in our business. We’ve used Go-Pro surveillance, putting a Go-Pro on the front of a traffic controller so we can actually see what they see. And I kid you not, sometimes it’s terrifying watching a 55 tonne B-double career down the road at 100 kilometres an hour then move over at the very last minute. You know, this is why this is a serious subject. This is the sort of thing that goes on.

Jerome Carslake:

Do you think the traffic controllers are crossing their fingers a few times behind their back hoping for the best?

Jim Appleby:

We try and institute some really formal rules around you are never to be in the line of fire. You’re always to stand to the side. That’s just asking for trouble. A momentary relapse in one person could cause profound issues. So always be prepared. We always light our traffic controllers so they’re well seen. So we have some procedures, as do most companies, many traffic control companies around that sort of thing.

Conflict resolution training is really important. Effective work site management.

Jerome Carslake:

What’s a red zone?

Jim Appleby:

So the red zone is our no go area on our own sites. So we have exclusion zones, and rather than use words like exclusion which sound incredibly silly in an accent like mine, we call it the red zone. Our red zone is ten metres behind or ten metres in front of a vehicle for the full width of the vehicle, and you’re not allowed to enter it full stop.

Jerome Carslake:

How do you arrive at ten metres?

Jim Appleby:

We actually engaged our workforce. We call them the baker’s dozen. Thirteen practitioners – not managers, not people who sit and read emails all day, but people out in the field who have to work with rules to make them effective, to come up with that rule. And that’s the rule they came up with. We’re really happy that we have engagement model for change, and so it’s driven by operatives from the field for the field.

There’s a whole list of other things we’ve done there. Banning mobile phones, which I think is important. Checking all the signage. Lots of people who drive through, when you get the feedback, get very frustrated that our signage is not good enough. And if they go from one of our work sites to a different work site, the signage changes. So we double check and we audit our signage quality to make sure we’re giving members of the public as much opportunity to get the information as possible.

Jerome Carslake:

Just while we’re drawing on that, we’ve got a really interesting question here from Karen. And she’s sort of made the point that there was a work site she was going through that was 40 k’s an hour, and drivers were regularly travelling through at 60 k’s. This was mentioned to the Council and they put a speed display trailer out with a radar facility as well, and immediately drivers slowed down. So the question is has there been much research conducted around the signage at work sites?

Jim Appleby:

Yes. We’ve done both covert speed and using the board Karen mentions to advertise and check speed, and it does make a difference. What we have found however, it makes a difference when they go past the sign, for the length of the sign, and then they speed back up. So people will react to the sign and slow down, almost like a school zone, but once they’re through the sign we’ve seen many cases of them speeding up. So we have a traffic management division in Queensland, a guy called Andrew Clements, who’s done some fabulous trials with various methods of trying to understand human behaviour. You’ll see a little bit of that when we talk about the emotive link.

So yes we have. Yes, it does have a positive impact, but the impact wears off if people realise there is no penalty with it.

Jerome Carslake:

So over time it sort of diminishes as well do you think?

Jim Appleby:

Absolutely right. We’ve seen that. If we’re on works for multiple days and the sign’s there, it has an impact on night one greater than night two and greater than night three.

Just want to finish up with the Back to Blue. We’re an organisation who pride ourselves on understanding our work teams and the troubles they face, and all managers in Downer Roads go back to working in the crew for a week a year. Everybody has to do it, and it’s been an enlightening experience for all managers to help us hone where we need to focus on our safety.

Jerome Carslake:

So have you gone through that yourself?

Jim Appleby:

Yeah. I did it on the spray sailing crew in the Pilbara, 43 degrees every day. But if it’s good enough for the goose, it’s good enough for the gander. It was actually a really enlightening experience. I also did a week in Sydney, and the difference in driver behaviour is incredible. So you’re looking at these huge road trains moving up and down – I couldn’t remember the name of the freeway I’m sorry – in the regional areas, and they work with the traffic controllers. So they know the roadworks are on. They’ll slow down. Sometimes you’ll have the road shut for several minutes. They’ll park up, they’ll wait with a deal of patience. The professional drivers that circumnavigate Australia are extraordinary, and actually help rather than hinder.

In Sydney it was like a battleground. There was one guy stood on the bonnet of his car so he could throw abuse from a slightly higher level than if he’d just been doing it out the window, just waiting for us to reopen the road. So I know that’s very broad spanned to give you the two examples, but I do believe the regional routes we get far more help than we do in the metro areas.

Rosemary Pattison:

Some extreme examples there.

Jim Appleby:

Rules are great, but what we’re finding more than anything now is that people are desensitised almost because of what they see on TV. You know, if you look at the cigarette packet now if you smoke cigarettes and it shows you a picture of somebody in a terrible state, we think there’s been a lot of desensitising people about shock horror tactics. It’s no good me showing people pictures of traffic controllers who have been mowed down.

We’ve done a bit of research, and I’ve got to be honest we stole some good ideas out of the TAC, and I say that with meaning. They come up with some fabulous stuff. Because we’re very much focused on the emotive link to the public now. We’re trying to create the understanding that the people on the roads are actually people, and you might well know one. If you think there’s only 22 million people in Australia, I would hazard a guess everybody knows a traffic controller. Everybody. If you think is it seven steps of separation?

Jerome Carslake:

Kevin Bacon. Yep.

Jim Appleby:

Yep. The Kevin Bacon. Everybody will know one, and we’re trying to create that link, that for all you know this could be your friend.

Jerome Carslake:

The links are even smaller now.

Jim Appleby:

4.2 apparently if you have Facebook.

So we’ve done some trials out of our Queensland business, and Andrew Clements and Neville Moon. So if you need any information, I’m happy for anybody to get in contact with the guys up there. Here’s a couple of examples. So we’re using VMS to highlight that these are parents, these are real people. When somebody gets hurt on a work site, you would be amazed at how many people it touches. I’ve had one death in my time, a story that’s been well regaled and some of the audience will have heard it, and he was my first boss. And Colin died, but the effect was huge. I would hazard a guess it touched 10,000 people directly or indirectly because of families and associations, friends. We try to create that link back that these are people. These are real people. These are potentially your friends. So give them a hand.

So he writes the sign. A fabulous idea. We actually put a cut out – and this was the approval of TMR who were happy for us to do this trial – of the dad with the two children. There’s a cut out on the site, and Andrew’s monitored driver behaviour around that and I’m just waiting on the results to see if it’s changed. But it’s all about this emotional link thinking there is a cause and there is an outcome related with my actions. We try to make it a lot more personal.

Jerome Carslake:

Do you think some people disconnect the people on the work sites to – are they sort of viewed as equipment possibly, or they just don’t view them as this is their workplace?

Jim Appleby:

I mean to be perfectly honest, there’s a fabulous advert I saw some time ago. I think it’s actually out in the UK where it shows a car driving through a school classroom and through a surgeon’s theatre, and asked the question would you do that and why would you go through somebody else’s work zone any differently. I think we’re just seen as a nuisance. I don’t think people can connect with the value we actually bring. I’m sure we’re playing our part in that. I’d be really interested for some feedback. But you know, we’re not seen as adding value, when actually we’re keeping the essential network of Australia operational. We’re seen as an inconvenience.

Jerome Carslake:

And there’s a question here from Paul that says:

Q:           Is it a fact that drivers are not educated about signs?

Do you think that’s a factor?

Jim Appleby:

It’s a really good question. The answer is that I don’t know. I think we can become almost overwhelmed by the amount of signs advertising around these days. I know Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, took almost half of the road signs down because he believed there was too much information. It’s not about what they’re seeing, it’s about how they’re behaving when they get there. That’s what I would say. The driver behaviour irrespective of the sign isn’t changing as they go through the roadworks. And I don’t know how much the sign would drive change. It would certainly help. Good signage always does. It prepares people. And what we’re seeing is governments start to give people better expectations that your journey will be disrupted and it will be disrupted by X amount of time.

Interestingly to slow down and drive through a 40 kilometre an hour work zone, which is about say a kilometre long, it costs you about 20 seconds of your life. That’s all.

Jerome Carslake:

And what would you say also – because I think one of the common issues that pops up is people go ‘There’s a work site out. No one’s on it. Where are they?’

Jim Appleby:

Yeah. I think we are masters of our own downfall in some situations. The problem with a lot of road repairs is they move horizontally very quickly. So you’ve got to give them enough work and enough space to keep it moving, and you can’t reset the start point. So you can’t take it off, put it on and keep that work moving. We have to provide an efficient delivery to the network. So there may well be gaps. We also have seen examples from around the industry where we haven’t exactly got it right. That’s not us taking the moral high ground. We have issues to resolve of our own as well. And I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think they’re as often as people tend to remember.

Rosemary Pattison:

And an interesting comment there, the higher the income the worse the attitude.

Talking about the areas that some people travel through are better for workers.

Jim Appleby:

We’ve tried to do some geographical checks to see if there are any hotspots, and we don’t believe it’s based on society. We believe it’s based on the network. So I would say the M4 is a classic example and a real hotspot, because people face trials and tribulations every day. We did some work for some tunnels in Sydney, and the client we worked for there, a company called Trans Urban were fabulous. They got us some assistance when we knew we were going into a particularly difficult area, and they actually got police presence. On the night that the police were there they actually arrested somebody for dangerous driving because he swerved at a traffic controller.

Rosemary Pattison:

Wow.

Jim Appleby:

You know, and he did it to impress his girlfriend. That’s what he told the policeman.

Rosemary Pattison:

What is that about?

Jim Appleby:

She was particularly impressed when she had to get the bus home because they impounded his car.

Jerome Carslake:

So what do the police think when they actually have to sit on site and actually provide – do they sort of – are they aware of the risk that you guys – and what you guys have to put up with?

Jim Appleby:

Yeah. Queensland particularly actually in many examples make it part of the contract to have a policeman there, and we do see some positive impacts from where the police are. But again people’s behaviour changes when they’re out of sight, out of mind. But yet there has been some positive impact. There’s a cost impost to society for having a policeman on site to make sure you’re going to do 40 kilometres an hour. Imagine if we had to put a policeman in every school zone. At that point society has really broken down. I’d rather a policeman was out there keeping us all safe from dangerous people, not a traffic controller with a lollypop stick.

Rosemary Pattison:

Exactly. Exactly.

Jim Appleby:

We’ve also begun the emotive link, and I just wanted to mention – give you the opportunity maybe if you’d like to to have a look at this foundation, so the Georgina Josephine Foundation. We’ve aligned with these guys because – I won’t tell you the – go and have a look at the website, about Peter, the father whose daughter tragically died under the wheels of his own ute. And their story is incredibly similar to ours about safety of people, safety of pedestrians, safety of people on foot around vehicles. And these are our charity partners this year. Their story is amazing. Two of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, Emma and Peter, who have sort of dedicated their life after the death of their two year old daughter to try to keep people safe.

My message about roadworks is really important to me. I want to ask everybody to go and share the dangers around your house, your driveway, your neighbour’s driveway, with the people who you’re around. Seventeen children have died under the wheels of a vehicle in this situation on average per year. That is a horrifying statistic. Something needs to change. So we’re trying to work with these guys to promote the work they’re doing and to promote the message to try and keep our children safe. Most of the time it’s a relative as well.

Jerome Carslake:

Do you think this also resonates with that problem group as well, I guess the 18 to 24 young male? Is this a pathway into their psyche to say look, this is a high risk environment on the road network, this is what can happen?

Jim Appleby:

Anything that gets into the psyche – I’ve got to be honest, we immediately jump to the fact that many of the people – and I think it’s a common misconception – many of the people who are abusive at roadworks are young drivers on P plates.

I don’t think that’s the case. Talking to our teams, it’s across society. In fact the P platers feel probably a little bit more vulnerable because if they break the rules the penalties to them are greater, if they’re caught speeding – from what I understand if they’ve got any alcohol in their blood when they’re driving – when you’re on your plates the rules are tighter. I can tell you it doesn’t have an income basis. It doesn’t have a creed, a colour, a religion basis. It’s right the way through society.

To have a traffic controller run over on purpose by a woman whose daughter was late for a gymkhana for example – in her words not mine – it just touches every part of society. I think it’s about how you are and who you are and where you place your values.

Jerome Carslake:

I guess that aligns with Safe Work Australia released a report a week or two ago, and it was looking at some trend lines and serious injuries. And over the last decade there’s been a doubling in person to person serious injuries. So it sort of aligns with what you’re saying.

Just one more. We’ve got one from Marnie here as well.

Q:           Do you think people get conditioned when signs are left up and work is not occurring?

Jim Appleby:

Yeah. It’s a really good point, and yes, I could see why that would be a frustration, because it’s unnecessary. And quite rightly as I think David also pointed out, we really need to up our game and become more responsive to the public needs as well. So I’m not saying this is a one way train. We’ve got to play our part.

Jerome Carslake:

How do you think the smaller operators – like David sort of asked that question – the smaller operators that cover or remove the signs. I guess there’s a common sort of theme coming through.

Jim Appleby:

Yep. You’ve got to be careful. There are some standards we have to follow. You have to leave certain signage in place. So there might be no work going on, but yeah, depending on the condition of the road or the work being undertaken or the potential drop offs at the edge, you might have to leave signage up. And that signage might have to slow you down for public safety. Maybe we don’t transmit the message about why it’s being left out sometimes. So there is an element of that, but there is an element of where we’ve got to install better practice. I’d agree.

Rosemary Pattison:

But you’re doing lots of listening Jim.

Jim Appleby:

I’m doing a lot of talking today though Rosemary aren’t I?

Just a couple of examples of the good work that’s going on. So this is a sign that is used by Vic Roads, creating a link between the granddad, the granddaughters and he could well be the one on the work site. So the whole industry is having a push at this, and that’s why we need public help.

Unfortunately these two videos don’t work, but I would really suggest you have a look at them. And when you talk about the emotive link, this is it in creation. NT Government have sponsored by the traffic control community a video to be made. And as I said it won’t play today sadly, but it’s linking the fact that this is somebody’s relatives who are doing this work. And the NT Government have been great. I saw this during the Olympic coverage at seven o’clock prime time TV. This advert was on TV, and to me it’s fabulous to see government picking up the mantle and doing some of the heavy lifting around this.

Jerome Carslake:

Is this really the first time any government has – we saw the billboard, but is the first real major advertising approach? Karen asked a really good question, actually asking around campaigns, so this is what we’re feeding into right now.

Jim Appleby:

Yeah. So I think I’ve seen a few examples. There’s one from TAC which I just think was a game changer. I think it’s a brilliant, brilliant advert. But the campaign is out there, and I think government are aware – we use data that we collect and other companies to show them the risks, and government are reacting. Government reacting, public changing is our perfect world.

And this advert – so this is a guy called Francesco. This is a TAC advert. Anybody in Victoria may well have seen it. It’s possibly the best advert I’ve seen in many, many years to make you think differently. This guy is not an actor, and when the 70 people walk around the corner, watch the change in him and then put yourself in that position. And I think it opened my eyes up. The way to get public to change isn’t to sit there and bash them over the head with a big stick and have double demerits, it’s about creating this emotive link to an outcome where if something goes wrong it could affect them.

Jerome Carslake:

The question put to Francesco was how many people do you think should die on Victorian roads every year, and the number he chose was 70. And so then around the corner walked 70 of his family members. And sitting in the audience when it was launched for the first time –and I must admit there’s not many ads that give me goose bumps –and you’re sitting there and the whole audience – you can just feel it trickle down.

Jim Appleby:

It’s one of those stop moments, and it had a profound effect on me and it’s been shared around our business. It really helped us shape our engagement model with our own teams, and a different way to approach it. Gore, cut fingers – nobody takes any notice no more. This is just an incredibly good advert. Fair play to TAC. I’ll give them a wrap. It changed our view.

Recently I saw one where they were interviewing young people who were driving, texting, Facebooking, Snapchatting, things like that – not that I know what it all is to be honest – and then a young lady comes in and sits down and explains how her parents got killed by somebody who’d been doing that. You see the power in the message is extraordinary. That’s why that emotive link is really we think the future of creating a connection to the human psyche.

Jerome Carslake:

That’s the new AT&T ad from the US, and those kids were boasting about their behaviour, how good they could Snapchat, what they could do while they’re driving.

Jim Appleby:

They weren’t boasting after they sat down with this young lady for 20 seconds were they?

Rosemary Pattison:

And we’ll send those links to the videos with the recording to our audience.

Jerome Carslake:

So we’ve just got a couple of questions before we go on to this one.

Q:           Perhaps the signage could differentiate between work zone…

From Melvin Mosh…

and change conditions. So when road workers are present, are you able to actually provide a clearer indication with regards to when they’re on the site and not on the site?

Jim Appleby:

I think that’s a really good point. I’ll follow up on that one Melvin. Thank you. I’ll get good ideas out of this. I’ve never thought about that one.

Jerome Carslake:

There’s another one here from Daniel. He’s saying:

Q:           If you want to eliminate the risk, why not look to remove the traffic controller from the side of the road and have a mechanised system, mobile traffic lights and so on?

Jim Appleby:

Yeah. I think we’re actually on this journey of change. Having a traffic controller facing down a 55 tonne truck I’m not a big fan of. You can tell by the accent I don’t originate from Australia. In the UK they manage traffic rather than control it. So they use more and bigger equipment and less people. And I think there is a balance of both. I think that public interface in urban environments is really strong, because you’re then dealing with people as well as cars. So I think there is a balance.

But we’ve recently undertaken some trials in Queensland using traffic lights to replace the person who stood there. It’s not just the traffic controller remember though. We could have up to 40 people stood not too far from the traffic controller. So whilst we can eliminate the traffic controller, we can’t eliminate those people. But actually if we can change driver behaviour we can make it entirely safer for everybody, including the driver.

The odd thing is – and I think it’s a fascinating fact – if people as they approach roadworks slow down to 40 kilometres an hour, they will get home quicker. Because the indifferent speeds create natural traffic jams. So the guy travelling at 40, a lady comes up behind at 80, she has to slow down, rapidly hit her brakes. Fifteen cars later the traffic stops. So the actual irregular speed and the person going too quick creates the traffic jam which causes the congestion, which causes the angst which causes the abuse, and you can see how it snowballs out.

Rosemary Pattison:

I bet a lot of people wouldn’t know that.

Jim Appleby:

I think I saw a Vic Roads presentation where the best thing people could do in the morning rush hour is just stay in their lane and they’ll get to work quicker and they’ll get home quicker, instead of jumping across lanes. So I’m sure there is some data behind that and it’s factual. And that creates congestion itself.

Jerome Carslake:

That was key message of the TAC, towards zero.

Jim Appleby:

It was. You were at the same conference weren’t you?

Jerome Carslake:

Yeah. Vic Roads made that point. John Merritt. Just don’t change lanes. You increase risk and it affects traffic flow.

Jim Appleby:

Really I’ve come on here because I just want a bit of help. We’ve got 2,000 people out on the network. You think there will be 10,000 people on Australia’s roads every night – that’s the reality of it – trying to do a job, trying to contribute to society, and as much as you might think it’s an inconvenience, it will be a far bigger inconvenience if we didn’t fix them. There’s a reason we’re a first world country. We have economic status. We can move freight. We can move people. We can create value. And all we’re doing is our little bit to contribute to that. And if 100 people on the call or thereabouts can go and change one person’s behaviour who can change another, the benefits to all of us are profound.

The reality is if someone dies on an Australian road, a lot of people feel it. And none of us want to end up in that – treat a roadworks zone like the majority of people treat a school zone. It would give us a greater chance. It would actually – reality is we’d be more efficient. We could do more. We could charge less. We’d save you money in your taxes. There’s a whole series of added benefits. I can tell you many examples of people who’ve been involved in accidents first hand, and the reality is you don’t know if it’s going to be you who causes it. And it is not a good place to be. I speak from the death of my first boss, and it still haunts me to this day. Do something to change other people’s behaviour and indeed your own.

Jerome Carslake:

I think that’s what a lot of people don’t realise. 80 to 90 percent of most traffic crashes, they just happen. These are things which are momentary spurs in time, and if everyone takes responsibility and you share that out we can reduce that risk.

So how would you sleep better at night if people accept that more? Would you have a greater rest? How do you find the pressure you have to deal with with that many people out on the road?

Jim Appleby:

Well Jerome can see the bags under eyes. I’ve never slept particularly well. We do a lot of work to try and manage our risk on our work sites. We try and engage. We try and use near miss. We have some really stringent, critical controls. We have good practice in place.

I’m much happier when I feel as though we can control our risk, and many of the near misses reported are things that we need to change and we can then control. Third party public is the one where it is really, really difficult to control, and you’re almost at risk from other people’s behaviour rather than your own actions. If we could get people to follow some of the simple rules and help us on the journey and provide good feedback of what we do well and what we do badly, then it will give us a better chance and I might sleep a little bit better.

Jerome Carslake:

This is where I think it’s a good one we can feed in – there’s a question here from Ian.

Q:           Could we better utilise social media such as Twitter for motorists to provide feedback and for contractors to inform and update the public?

Rosemary Pattison:

As long as they’re not driving while they do it.

Jim Appleby:

I was just about to say that. I think now the whole platform of how we interact is changing. Cars are getting smarter, drivers are getting better informed, if you look at what government are doing around some of the journey time reliability stuff – so if you’re going from here to there it’s going to be eight minutes. So we are getting a bit smarter. I think we always struggle to keep up with technology, but I think there is a lot of effort going into that space. So I think yeah, we could. You need to have smart technology to match it of course. It’s pointless sending somebody a message saying that roadworks you’re approaching is a 40 when you’re going in the other direction.

We’ve used the telegraph system. So this is a system where you put a message out over the radio waves as people approach. Now that was done on a trial again in Queensland for TMR and it’s what are used in many of the tunnels. So now as you’re in the tunnels you’ll get a message on your radio if there’s an incident telling you what to do. You’re not allowed to use it, because of broadcasting regulations I understand, wholesale. But in some specific areas we have seen that, and that provides a better informed public which is a key part of what we’ve got to do.

Rosemary Pattison:

It’s quite comforting when you’re in the tunnel and you’ve got the radio on and you hear a message. You feel like they’re keeping you in the loop.

Jim Appleby:

Yeah. I agree. I agree. I thought it was brilliant, and that little snippet of information allows you as a driver to make choice and decisions, which I think promoting that is a really good thing.

Jerome Carslake:

Are you aware of any states who actually coordinate that journey plan where you can go online, you can see what’s going on. So if I’m doing some journey management and I’m going from A to B, if I check that on site and I go wow, I’m going to avoid these sort of spots or…

Jim Appleby:

I couldn’t answer that honestly and say I absolutely know. What I can tell you is I went on my iPhone the other day and I put in my journey, and it showed me red routes on an iPhone. So I don’t know where that information came from as to where congestion might truly sit. So there is information available, and I’m sure there will be people far cleverer than me on the call who know where that’s available from. But I understand that it’s becoming wider available now.

Jerome Carslake:

Daniel just came through saying the same thing.

Jim Appleby:

Google Maps. Yeah. Thank you Daniel for your support on that. But people have got to take the time to check, be prepared. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just old fashioned. But some of it just comes down to good old fashioned manners. How often these days when lanes are merging do you see – you put your hand up and wave and say thank you, and there’s no reciprocation. It’s almost as though it’s decided we’re becoming intolerant of each other or time is that critical that you haven’t got a second to spare.

I actually think if people understood what time really costs them over what it could save them, we might be in a better place as well.

 Rosemary Pattison:

Great. And Jerome is any question standing out for you as we start to go towards the end of our webinar?

Jerome Carslake:

We always have a plethora of questions coming through, so we try and feed them on through. But I’ll let Jim move on a little bit more. I know we’re coming up to the end, but I’ll grab a couple more in a tick.

Jim Appleby:

I’m old fashioned. You get nothing for free in life, and never be disappointed with a ‘no’. But it’s always worth asking the question. So on the call, what could you do to help? The reality is everybody could set the example, actually slow down and have patience, and particularly if you’ve got young people in the car with you. That behaviour as you’ve seen in one of the adverts of the young child on the street, young people follow examples, and if you set that example it can only be a good thing. If you raise awareness with your friends and family, not just at roadworks, but particularly when you’re moving your vehicle around your property, that the risk to young people is profound. Seventeen young people have died being run over by relatives. At least take that message back home, think about how you park your car. Think about where the locks on your doors are, particularly with young children.

Raise the awareness in your organisation. See if you can get change. You guys represent some big organisations from what I understand. Do something positive around that, and get involved. As I say, within seven steps you can touch everybody else in the world apparently, or 4.2. If you could do something proactive and change the status quo – we don’t have to accept it – it would really, really help what we’re trying to achieve and help keep our people safe.

Jerome Carslake:

We’ve got two good questions here as well.

Q:           What can you do?

I think this actually draws on to some solution sort of focus as well. One is around total removal of traffic controller people is often limited by state government regulations. Is it different from state to state?

Jim Appleby:

Yes. So we don’t have a harmonised traffic control law in Australia. One law would actually make it easier for us as practitioners, but it would make it far more reliable for the public to understand – particularly anybody who drives interstate – to understand that is a set of signs that mean roadworks are coming. So that standard would be well received I believe.

Jerome Carslake:

And Melvin’s actually got one in here, and this is a good agreement for councils, so getting some leadership from them around data standards for road alerts, working with suppliers etcetera as well.

Jim Appleby:

Any source of accurate data is well received. We have a comprehensive system where we’ve set it up to use data. Because quite often people’s perception tends to be their reality. People’s perception – for example every roadworks there’s no work going on. That’s not always true. But the more data we can amass the better our decision making will be around where we put the efforts in to get the best outcomes, be it councils, be it at school zones. And to hear that – I can’t remember who it was earlier who said his wife had stopped reporting. That’s the worst thing that can happen really. You know, we’ve got to keep – people have got to be relentless about reporting. It’s the only way you’ll bring change is by saying something. Silence is consent.

Jerome Carslake:

And if you think back to that reporting, if the council’s been receiving that warning in a trend in an area and then a young child is hurt, no one’s acted on that.

Jim Appleby:

God forbid, that’s the worst – God, that’s the worst question you’re going to answer isn’t it? I mean silence is consent isn’t it? That was a famous advert from some years ago, and that was around people who got hurt at work on that advert. But you’ve got a voice. You need to use it. I mean God forbid, I’ve got an eight and a six year old girl. They go across three school crossings every day.

You know what? I actually feel – I feel better that they’re going across a school crossing because they’re manned. There’s some fabulous people. These are true volunteers to the community who are selfless and put other people first. You know, I’ve always held the school zone as something that we should be incredibly proud of, and to see people’s behaviour change has always given me hope that they can change in a work zone.

If you’re seeing something different in a school zone, it needs to be raised to the school. The school need to act upon that. I know for a fact my two little girls, if I saw anything, I would be straight on the phone.

Jerome Carslake:

I have a six and a four year old and I totally align with you there Jim.

Jim Appleby:

And the reality is – and at the very start it was school zone vs work zone and I probably wandered off in a million different directions and gone off topic, but the reality is there’s no difference. It’s exactly the same people. It’s exactly the same circumstance. A slightly different audience and a slightly different user, but any failure in either results in catastrophic harm. I don’t want catastrophic harm in either. I just want people to be able to go about their business safely, and let’s see what we can do to drive some change.

Jerome Carslake:

Thank you very much Jim. It’s been a pleasure having you in here. I knew this was going to be a fantastic webinar, and thank you everyone for the fantastic questions I’ve heard, and Rosemary for helping facilitate it as well.

Jim Appleby:

Thanks for the opportunity.

Rosemary Pattison:

Thank you for the awesome webinar Jim and for coming in.

[End of Transcript]


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