Safe system of work: Road vehicle safety systems

Control Measure Knowledge

As road vehicle safety systems can present hazards to personnel and other emergency responders, their presence and status should inform a risk assessment when attending road vehicle incidents. If personnel or other emergency responders need to enter the vehicle due to there being a threat to life, the risk assessment should consider the benefit versus risk of proceeding before being able to establish a safe system of work.

Identify the road vehicle safety systems and communicate the information

The priority is to recognise that a vehicle is equipped with safety systems, such as supplementary restraint systems (SRS). If the vehicle is fitted with airbags, it is usually marked on the windscreen or the airbag container itself. However, not all systems will be readily identifiable, and it may be necessary to refer to vehicle design information.

The presence of road vehicle safety systems, and their associated hazards, should be brought to the attention of personnel and other emergency responders who may need to work near to them.

As airbags operate independently, after a collision there may be an undeployed airbag in the vehicle. As multi-stage airbags have the capacity for a secondary deployment, personnel should assume front airbags could deploy again unless otherwise confirmed.

Establish an appropriate safe distance from road vehicle safety systems

Due to the hazards vehicle safety systems present, working near them should be avoided if possible. The exact deployment range distances of vehicle safety systems, including airbags, may be provided in vehicle design information.

Objects should not be placed near undeployed vehicle safety systems, if they may become projectiles in the event of system activation.

Due to the potential impact of certain radio frequencies on vehicle safety system sensors, handheld radios should be kept at least 10cm away from identified systems.

Isolate road vehicle safety systems

Any undeployed vehicle safety systems should be made safe if there is to be any cutting or metal displacement, or if a rescue is to be performed.

Vehicle safety systems may retain a residual charge, even after power has been isolated. Therefore, it should be assumed that safety systems remain charged, unless isolated following procedures recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

Airbags can be made safer by using an appropriate airbag protector.

Avoid manipulation of or damage to road vehicle safety systems

Manipulating or damaging vehicle safety systems should be avoided. However, if this is unavoidable, removing or displacing internal trim, often referred to as ‘peel and reveal’, should first be carried out to identify the location of such components.

If removing an airbag is unavoidable, it should be handled wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), securely contained and retained for investigation. There may be traces of chemicals that may be hazardous, particularly inside the bag. Care should be taken to minimise the inhalation of gases from a deployed airbag, which although not toxic may be an irritant.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions