NSW government announces food delivery taskforce

In response to the recent spate of delivery rider deaths in NSW, the state government has announced a taskforce to investigate the gig economy.

On Monday night, a man working for UberEats was killed on Sydney’s busy Cleveland Street following a crash with the driver of a truck. Two days earlier, fellow Uber Eats deliverer Bijoy Paul, 27, died after being hit by the driver of a car in Rockdale.

On average, one food delivery rider has died in Australia every 11 days since 27 September.

Following a public outcry over government inaction and victim blaming, Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson and Transport and Roads Minister Andrew Constance announced a new task force led by SafeWork NSW and Transport for NSW to look into the safety of the industry and see if riders needed more protections.

“The task force will assess the safety measures currently implemented by each food delivery operator, and advise on any improvements needed to prevent further incidents,” Mr Anderson said.

Labor and Greens MPs questioned the lack of urgency in setting up a taskforce.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said the taskforce would only discover what people already knew.

“Gig economy workers need training, safety equipment and workers compensation and to be paid the minimum wage,” he said.

“It’s good the government recognises there is a problem here, but this isn’t a solution – it’s a delaying tactic at best.”

It’s not clear how the current taskforce will work with the existing NSW government committee that is currently conducting an Inquiry into the impact of technological and other change on the future of work and workers.

Chair of the parliamentary inquiry Labor MP Daniel Mookey told The Guardian that rather than a taskforce, the government should have implemented ‘emergency regulations’.

“SafeWork NSW doesn’t need a taskforce to investigate, it is their job. SafeWork NSW should be explaining why they haven’t issued any prohibition orders to any of these platforms where riders have died.

“Instead of announcing a meeting, the minister should be announcing a new emergency regulation to deliver better standards right now,” Mookhey said.

“The government should also be backing Labor’s bill to provide minimum safety standards and equipment for riders.”

On Tuesday, Bicycle Network called for findings from the New South Wales Legislative Council’s inquiry into the gig economy to be urgently expedited alongside actions that are proven to reduce the risk for all people who ride on NSW roads, including separated infrastructure, slower speeds and safety upgrades to heavy vehicles.  

Reducing the risk for people who ride is more than extra safety equipment

It’s important to remember that for people who ride bikes, risk is created by the external environment and that risk primary comes from drivers of vehicles. In Australia, research shows that nearly 80 per cent of crashes involving a bike rider are caused by the driver of a motor vehicle.

The most effective way to reduce the risk for all people who ride is to separate them from vehicles.

In managing risk in any environment, personal protective equipment is the least effective means of preventing injury. The best methods control the hazard or risk at the source to prevent an incident occurring in the first place.

But sadly, because PPE is easier to implement, it often leads to a focus on the least effective hazard control. It’s a bad moment when you have to rely on a reflective vests or bright lights to save your life.

Bike advocates have used the following diagram to show the preferred hierarchy of hazard control for people riding bikes. 

Image: Hazard Control on the Road.