Driver Health and Safety – Employer Obligations & Fleet Management Solutions

A woman who spent 12 hours trapped in her freezing car as it lay meters from the road near Taumaranui, would have died from hypothermia if she had been left there for another hour – potentially a serious driver health and safety situation. The rescue by a passing motorist was lucky but if the outcome had been less positive, the driver’s employer could have faced significant penalties for a failure to take all practical steps to address the known hazard inherent in driver health and safety, and the risk of further harm after the event. This frightening case highlights the critical need for company vehicles to have access to 24/7 Crash Management services including emergency response.

We’ve covered driver health and safety implications for company vehicle fleets many times, most recently at WorkSafe have already started treating vehicle accidents seriously. Penalties and fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars were applied to the tragic fatality involving a rubbish truck worker earlier this year –

Talk to Crash Management now about a vehicle accident response service and customised programme to suit your fleet, to support driver health and safety at a surprisingly affordable cost. This includes 24/7 emergency response, car insurance claims support, assessor co-ordination, free late model courtesy cars, and collision repair management to ensure vehicles are repaired to manufacturers’ specifications and remain safe on our roads. This is all supported by advanced web-based technology, a robust communications programme, and of course our famous free courtesy car facility.

See the full story of the driver who was trapped in freezing overnight temperatures for 12 hours after she crashed and rolled on a rural road near Taumaranui.

“A woman who spent 11 hours trapped in her freezing car as it lay metres from the road, would have died from hypothermia if she had been left there for another hour, her rescuers were told. The woman, in her 40s, was pale and cold and started shaking as carpenters from Max Mackenzie Builders stopped on State Highway 41 and ran to her aid, covering her in their jackets to warm her up.

The group of Taumarunui builders were on their way to a building site in Omori near Taupo around 8 this morning when they spotted the Toyota Vivi from SH41. Site foreman Ricky Balloch said they pulled over to see what had happened to the crashed vehicle, expecting to find a dead person. As they wrestled through the toi tois to get to the car, which had rolled twice over a ditch, they yelled out to see if anyone was there. The car had landed on the driver’s side and the front window was hanging off. “We got close to the car and said, ‘Hello, is anyone there?’ and we heard this real faint ‘Help me’.” When they saw the woman, who was in her 40s, she still had her seatbelt on but her left arm was broken so she was unable to use it to free herself.

This group of Taumarunui builders were on their way to work when they spotted the overturned car and went to check it out. Khan Rawiri, left, Christopher Dassen, Pierre Cowlishaw, Ricky Balloch and Cody Balloch. “She was freezing, we got our jackets out of the van and piled as much on as we could. And just kept her calm really and called for help.” He said given how cold she was, she was extremely coherent and able to communicate very well.
Balloch said they called 111 and ran to the car to find whatever they could to warm her up. Temperatures fell to about -4C on Sunday night as the woman sat and counted 26 cars drive past her in the dark. “She was so grateful. She was unbelievably grateful. She couldn’t thank us enough. “She said, ‘I thought no one would ever stop’ – because she had been there since 9pm at night.”

The men tried to comfort her while they waited and started unloading her car which was packed with kitset furniture she had been delivering to the Taumarunui Hospital, where she worked. “We had tom boy going ripping stuff out of the car, kicking the front window out.” They cleared the remaining glass from the broken front window so they could cover her in their jackets.
The woman had been to Hamilton that day to collect the furniture, dropping a friend off in Taupo before heading home to Taumarunui.

She told the men as they waited for help that her car had slipped on the ice.
“The road was shockingly frozen and she came around the corner and she was saying that she just touched the brakes and that was it, she started sliding.” He said she was in pain and they heard she had a few internal injuries. They were two hours late for work, but they were more worried about the woman than what time it was. “She wasn’t shivering when we got there, but once we started warming her up with some coats and stuff it was like she was in shock. We got told later on today that she was only about an hour out of dying from hypothermia. She was severely hypothermic.”

The men were keen to get in touch to see how she was. Balloch said a logging truck driver had spotted the car before them but thought it had been dealt with. “But there wasn’t any tape around it, you see. That’s why we stopped, because it wasn’t taped off or anything like that.” Boss Max Mackenzie said his workers had certainly done their good deed for the day.
St John paramedics, firefighters and the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter arrived at the scene and the woman was flown to Waikato Hospital. A rescue helicopter spokesman who attended the crash said the woman was “bloody cold” when they arrived. They used a thermal electric blanket to warm her up. “She couldn’t keep warm. She was stuck there. They had to cut her out so she couldn’t move at all and she was wet, but I would say that was just from the humidity and moisture in the air.

“She was really lovely. She spent the whole time apologising for being a nuisance. She was really cool.” The car crashed in a “strange spot” between two corners and the bottom of the car was facing the road so it would have been difficult for cars to spot in the dark, he said. A DHB spokeswoman said the woman was in a serious but stable condition tonight.

Ultimately this was a happy outcome, but the risk to driver health and safety is clear – talk to us now!

2 Responses

  1. Hans
    | Reply

    WorkSafe has still not got their heads around driver hazard in New Zealand. As you’ve previously identified , most car accident claims (and therefore injuries and fatalities) relate to company vehicles, sadly there have been hundreds of car accident fatalities since the HSWA came into effect but few prosecutions. The rubbish truck incident caused the tragic loss of life of a young 19yr old woman and was proven to resulted from poor truck maintenance which the waste management company was aware of. Despite all this they were fined a trifling $100,000 – a national disgrace. More focus on employee responsibility for driver safety is urgently needed. I would agree that formal accident management protocols and services are essential for ALL fleet operators, whether they handle that in-house or outsource to Crash Management etc. Keep up the good work!

  2. Dave J
    | Reply

    Well done to Nicky Bree Tourism Holdings Commercial Fleet Manager, this year’s winner of the Fleet Safety award 2017. Good application of smart technology reduced speeding by 84%t and also reduced serious ‘vehicle ran off the road’ type crashes to just two for the year, well down on the previous year’s record of 14 serious/ roll-over accidents. Great to see Fleet Managers taking Health & Safety seriously, this is a great result! See the whole story here –

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