A recent near-miss incident occurred with students from the Rural Clinical School (RCS) who were travelling between Kununurra and Broome along the Gibb River Road. They failed to arrive at the expected time and did not check in at any of the designated locations on their driving plan.
The parents of one of the students had been provided an expected arrival time, however, when delays occurred and no contact was made – the alarm was raised. The students were in possession of working satellite phones which were switched off. This event cascaded into a broad notification of multiple UWA persons, and external agencies attempting to resolve the issue. Students were contacted approximately 1 hour after alarm had been raised.
The Driving in Remote Locations outlines the basic elements all UWA travel in a remote location including the following administrative requirements.
- A safety risk assessment of the work to be undertaken during the field trip should be carried out prior to departure and consider the nature of the work and the experience of the staff or students attending the field trip. In many cases it will be unsafe for people to be working alone. If it is considered safe to be working alone, suitable communication sources, equipment, survival supplies and first aid will required to ensure adequate safety levels.
- Completion of the one day approved four-wheel-drive course is advised for staff and students who wish to undertake a field trip involving remote work.
- Trip plans shall be submitted to the School for approval by field trip leaders prior to undertaking fieldwork. Detail provided shall include: o a log book of prior vehicle inspections and the supplementary safety equipment. This should be signed by a senior administration or technical officer and kept in a secure location at the beginning and end of each trip. (This applies to University-owned vehicles only.)
- Key dates - time and date of departure, expected time and date of return
- major roads/towns to be covered "en route” and approximate work area (map)
- names and contact details of all staff and students in group
- any agreed radio or telephone call-in schedules. These must include - an appointed call-in person within UWA (with all hours access to appropriate means of communication). The call in schedule should indicate emergency procedures should call in procedure fail.
- Given travel plans are often submitted for approval well in advance of the actual trip (weeks/months), it is advised that the communication / travel plans are reviewed immediately prior to departure. If there are changes to contacts, or minor changes to locations then these should be reflected in the plan.
- Local rules or modified procedures particularly appropriate to the School but consistent with this policy may be developed. Agreed rules must be complied with and personnel who deliberately expose themselves or others to risk by non-compliance are to be counselled and if necessary excluded from field work.
- Notification of local authorities of where you intend to be, for how long and when you will contact them again. It is also important that you provide your contact details (Sat phone) and provide updates should circumstances change.