Why are the risks higher for motorcycle couriers?
Typically delivering parcels and pizzas, with 13,000 registered for fast food delivery in London alone, motorcycle couriers work in all weathers and road conditions. Couriers after often under pressure to deliver within specified timescales in congested traffic conditions.
Many riders are relatively inexperienced motorcycle riders - the work attracts a high proportion of part-time workers between the ages of 21 and 25. It also appeals to learners on mopeds and scooters who can obtain a provisional licence at 16.
A study conducted by Transport for London (TFL) revealed that as many as 60% of food delivery companies may employ riders who have only a provisional licence.
Working hours for fast food deliveries are often between 8pm and 1am, and the reduced visibility at this time of day may also increase the risk of accidents.
Facing risks on a daily basis
The unpredictable behaviour of other road users can cause motorcycle courier accidents and bicycle couriers accidents. Vehicles unexpectedly changing lanes, pedestrians stepping off pavements, people alighting from parked vehicles; all may cause motorcyclists to swerve and lose control of their vehicles.
Lack of observation or poor visibility contribute to almost half the number of collisions between cars and motorcyclists, with car drivers failing to notice the motorcyclist prior to the accident.
Poor road surfaces - spillages, potholes, loose chippings - all may result in a motorcyclist sliding and falling. Local authorities and the Highways Agency are responsible for keeping road surfaces hazard free where possible.
In addition to the hazards on the road, working alone and after dark brings risk of confrontation. Aggressive or drunk clients may assault couriers and some couriers may risk being robbed for the cash they carry.
Can anything be done to make the motorcycle courier's job safer?
The DfT have set a 10-year target to reduce casualties on UK roads, introducing a road safety strategy that included a consultation to address the issue of protecting those who ride motorcycles or mopeds as part of their job.
Two voluntary codes of practice were created: the Courier Code, in conjunction with the Despatch Association; and the Code of Practice for Home Delivery Operators and Drivers, in conjunction with the Pizza and Pasta Association.
Advising on good practice they set out both riders' and employers' responsibilities.
Experience and training are key to increasing safety. Employers should ensure that their couriers are sufficiently experienced and trained to ride safely through congested areas. In addition, they should not be asked to work for excessively long periods, and employers should plan adequate rest breaks.
Proper training on lifting and carrying heavy or awkward loads safely may help to reduce the potential to develop work-related long term back and upper body injuries.
Vehicles should be properly maintained by implementing a system of inspection and servicing. Mechanical faults should be repaired and defective or worn tyres replaced.
Helmets, gloves and other protective equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE) must be provided. This includes safety helmets and high visibility vests. Providing inadequate PPE may be evidence of an employer's negligence.
With staff turnover fairly high - many staying in the job for less than a year - it is believed that a low proportion of delivery riders receive any formal training from their employer, so the main risks may not be addressed.
Employers are nonetheless required to provide adequate training to their staff, including part-time staff. Failure to provide this training is may again be evidence of negligence.
Explaining No Win, No Fee arrangements
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More information and Advice
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