Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The NSW government has announced a new taskforce, which will examine if safety protocols in the food delivery industry could be improved in order to protect riders. 

The news comes after a fourth rider was killed on Sydney roads in two months.

The rider, who has not been identified, was hit by a truck in Redfern on Monday night, just two days after UberEats rider, 27-year-old Bijoy Paul, died in a collision with a car in Rockdale. 

Dede Fredy and Xiaojun Chen died following accidents involving cars on 27 September and 29 September respectively. 

A fifth rider, Chow Khai Shien, died on 24 October after an accident in central Melbourne. 

The taskforce, led by SafeWork NSW and Transport NSW, will determine whether “avoidable risks” contributed to the recent fatalities.

It will assess what safety measures are currently in place at each food delivery provider and suggest improvements that could prevent further incidents. 

“Every workplace death is a tragedy. Every person who goes to work should come home safely,” said Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson. 

“We have moved to set up this joint taskforce that will see SafeWork investigate each incident and make findings for any immediate improvements or compliance activity that can be implemented to better protect workers.”

The findings will also inform research into risks associated with the food delivery sector and the potential for regulatory reform that is currently being conducted by the NSW Government’s Centre for Work Health and Safety. 

Following the deaths of Fredy and Chen, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) called for immediate legislative reform. The union held a vigil on Wednesday night. 

“It has taken four rider deaths in Sydney for the NSW Government to set up a taskforce,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine. 

“The State Government needs to get on with this taskforce and ensure workers are central to it. The Federal Government also needs to acknowledge its role. It’s not good enough that states are in a piecemeal way trying to address the problem these billion dollar global tech giants have created. We need the Federal Government to act and regulate.”

A spokesperson for Uber Eats said the company learned of the road accident involving one of its delivery partners on Monday evening. “In isolation this fatality is devastating,” the spokesperson said.

“But when considered alongside other recent incidents across the on-demand food delivery sector, it is all the more concerning. It is clear that more needs to be done to improve road safety, and we are committed to playing a leading role in achieving this.”

While insurance is not a regulatory requirement in NSW, Uber Eats said it provides insurance as part of a support package, which covers its delivery partners in Australia.

The company told Hospitality it had recommended introducing “a mandatory requirement for all platform businesses to introduce a minimum insurance package on behalf of independent workers who are accessing their apps to earn” in a recent submission to the NSW Parliamentary inquiry into the Future of Work.

A spokesperson for Deliveroo said the company is committed to working with stakeholders including experts, industry and government to build solutions around the issues of road safety.

“We are saddened by the recent tragic deaths of the food delivery workers and our thoughts are with the families and rider communities during this sad time,” said the spokesperson.

“As part of the onboarding process, all riders must complete health and safety online learning modules according to their nominated vehicle type. Other safety modules include conducting vehicle checks and the legal and recommended standards for PPE. We believe we offer the most comprehensive onboarding process. 

“We regularly review our processes and online learning modules to ensure we have the most up-to-date best practices in place. Further, we regularly communicate road safety information to riders using a range of channels, including the online Rider Safety Information Hub, which contains important information from all the road jurisdictions across the country.”

Deliveroo said it provides all riders with free personal injury and income protection insurance, as well as compensation for family or dependents and public liability insurance. The company also said that it does not set target delivery times for riders and that they are free to use any route they decide is safe and efficient.

A spokesperson for DoorDash said: “DoorDash is committed to helping ensure a safe and healthy work environment, and we continue to constantly evaluate and refine our policies to support the Dasher community.”