‘Cheap pizza putting lives at risk’: NSW launches taskforce into food delivery deaths

A state government investigation will be launched to determine whether tighter safety regulations are needed to protect food delivery riders in response to a fifth death in two months.

Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson said Safework would investigate each of the deaths and the new taskforce would look at “potential avenues for regulatory reform to improve safety in this industry”.

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

Food delivery platform UberEats acknowledged the need to improve the safety of delivery riders as the NSW government faces pressure to cover them under its workers compensation and occupational work health and safety laws.

An Uber Eats food delivery rider
An Uber Eats food delivery riderCredit:Bloomberg

Law academics, unions and NSW MPs have also called for the extension of Chapter 6 of the NSW Industrial Relations Act to cover food delivery riders. The legislation regulates workplace conditions for truck drivers who are contractors and it could be amended to include food delivery riders.

An UberEats spokeswoman said it had notified Safework NSW and contacted its insurance team about the following the death of one of its riders in the Sydney CBD on Monday night.

“It is clear that more needs to be done to improve road safety,” the spokeswoman said.

We will continue to advocate for minimum insurance standards across platforms.”

A Deliveroo spokeswoman said it required all riders to complete health and safety online learning modules. It also provided riders with free personal injury and income protection insurance, which provides compensation for dependents or family in the event of a death.

A spokeswoman for Menulog said it recognised “the increasing need for initiatives that will help ensure the safe operation of delivery services and the safety of food couriers, particularly as the industry continues to expand and more people turn to on-demand services for flexible work”.

“We have recently put insurance in place that provides coverage for our entire courier network,” she said.

Hungry Panda said it was “looking to improve safety for our delivery people”. One of its riders was killed in late September.

“We provide bilingual safety guidance materials for motorbike and bicycle users, and also a compulsory road rules knowledge test for new riders,” a spokeswoman said. “We are also exploring options for personal injury insurance which can provide coverage for independent contractors.”

University of Technology Sydney Professor of Law Joellen Riley Munton said food delivery riders should be covered under the NSW Workers Compensation Act with the companies that engaged them paying the premiums.

The state government is putting together a taskforce on protections for food delivery drivers.
The state government is putting together a taskforce on protections for food delivery drivers.

She said the NSW government should also include food delivery riders into Chapter 6 of Industrial Relations Act to provide them with minimum mandatory safety requirements and companies should be obligated to provide a safe working environment.

Professor Riley Munton said riders needed improved conditions that prevented them from having to cycle at great speeds and beyond exhaustion to meet delivery targets to avoid being blocked from an app.

“There is no compensation for waiting time and food delivery riders are often punished for not delivering the food quickly enough,” she said. “Consumers are going to have to realise the price of a cheap freshly delivered pizza could be that they are putting people’s lives at risk.”

The Transport Workers’ Union is calling on the federal government to investigate food delivery companies.

“None had the right to training, proper protective gear or insurance,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said. “The law has not kept up and is failing to protect workers…we need action now.”

NSW Labor’s Gig Economy spokesman Daniel Mookhey the government should make “an emergency workplace health and safety regulation for food riders in the gig economy”. “We also have to expand the broken worker compensation system to cover workers in the gig economy,” he said.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said the state government should roll out workers compensation rights for all delivery workers and their families.

“If there was political will we could legislate for that this year,” he said.

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