Did you know motor vehicle-related accidents are the leading cause of workplace fatalities in the U.S.? In 2012, they accounted for more than 40 percent of workplace deaths, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because the most work-related fatalities happen in vehicles, the greatest risk many workers face during the day is getting behind the wheel of a car or truck.
This week is Drive Safely to Work Week, an annual campaign by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) to draw attention to safe driving in (and to and from) the workplace. Consequently, it is a good time to evaluate the attention safe driving receives in your workplace and think about ways the number of vehicle-related accidents can be reduced.
Some safety managers and business owners might think that only driving done at work during the workday should be the concern of a business, but many workers are injured in accidents while commuting, and these accidents negatively impact the workplace, too. These workers spend time away from work, replacements sometimes need to be found and an accident may harm the morale of other employees, even if the accident doesn’t happen at work.
Companies can take steps to make safe driving a part of the business’ safety culture by implementing policies for driving, paying proper attention to vehicle maintenance and discussing safe driving regularly.
Implement Safe Driving Policies
As with any workplace policy, getting employees to respect and buy into it can be difficult, especially when people already have bad habits. Using mobile devices while driving has become commonplace despite the dangers it poses, and convincing workers to stop doing this at work and during their commutes can be a challenge. Workers may know behaviors like this aren’t a good idea, but engage in them anyway.
A recent PSA from Volkswagen tried to show people why driving while texting is so dangerous by putting the audience at a movie theater in Hong Kong behind the wheel of a car on the big screen. The producers of the PSA then sent a text message to everyone in the theater, and while the audience members all checked their phones, the on-screen vehicle crashed. You can see the video here. While the effectiveness of a tactic like this one is unknown, it does show that curbing texting while driving thus far has been a challenge, and people are trying to come up with creative ways to get people to think twice before using a phone while driving.
The best way to prevent dangerous actions in vehicles at work like cell phone use, not wearing seatbelts or eating while driving is to put enforceable policies in place. Some companies install monitoring systems in vehicles to observe the behavior of drivers. Others require drivers to complete a checklist about safe driving before operating a company-owned vehicle.
Enforcing these policies at work will not entirely prevent employees from ignoring safe driving practices while commuting, but safe driving policies may cause workers to think twice before sending a text or checking an email.
Having additional policies in place related to the use of alcohol, drugs and certain medications while driving are necessary and are likely already touched on in your workplace’s policies. Adding further instructions related to fatigue can be equally important, as driving while drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Drowsy driving can be a problem especially for people who work long shifts, work shifts late at night or spend most of their workday driving. Truck drivers face the highest risk of motor vehicle accidents while on the job, so companies whose employees do significant amounts of driving must pay close attention to these policies.
Other workers who only drive occasionally—perhaps to visit clients—must also be aware of safe driving policies, though, even if they use their own vehicles to make these trips.
Perform (and Encourage) Regular Vehicle Maintenance
Performing regular maintenance on vehicles is obviously an important practice for any workplace that owns and operates cars, trucks, forklifts and other vehicles. Making workers aware of the need for maintenance and educating them about the types of maintenance vehicles will need to have can provide a business with more eyes to look out for potential safety problems. If a worker notices a vehicle has not had its oil changed in a while or that a car’s gas mileage has gotten worse, he or she could bring that to the attention of your maintenance team.
Workplaces should also focus on less frequent maintenance, too. Making schedules for what needs to be replaced when is critical to staying on top of vehicle problems that could lead to accidents.
You can also remind workers who do not drive during work hours about proper maintenance for their own vehicles. During safety meetings you could highlight parts of vehicles that might need more attention when the season changes. For example, as winter approaches, workers might want to think about replacing the tires on their cars. Poor tire treads can lead to skidding on wet, icy roads.
Make Safe Driving a Topic of Conversation
For any safety practice to become accepted in your workplace, you need to make it visible (possibly with safety signs and labels) and discuss it regularly. Otherwise, employees may forget about it or think the company doesn’t take it seriously.
Providing training for anyone who operates a vehicle at work is a necessity, but bringing up safe driving practices and tips during meetings could be beneficial for all workers. Reminders about paying attention to road conditions, changing whether, construction zones and traffic laws are all important. Those things may sound pretty basic, but those are the types of things alert drivers should be focusing on instead of any other distractions that might be present in the vehicle.
Companies should also make it clear that drivers do not need to rush when driving on behalf of the company. Following safe driving practices should be more important than getting from one place to another as quickly as possible, but if employees don’t see that the company believes this is true, they may still feel they need to rush. Checking in to see that safe driving practices are followed can show employees that safety is the number one priority while driving.
Drive Safely to Work Week
If your workplace would like to discuss safe driving, the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety has many materials you can use to start discussions. Their posters, PowerPoints, sample safety policies and other helpful documents cover topics ranging from distracted driving to creating a safe driving culture that extends beyond the workplace, so see if any of their offerings would be useful for your facility.
Are the majority of vehicles operated by your workers industrial trucks like forklifts? Take a look at the SlideShare below for safety tips.
- Keeping Operators Safe with Machine Guarding– creativesafetysupply.com
- Self-Driving Cars – Are We Safe?– blog.creativesafetysupply.com
- An Employers Look into Transportation Safety– safetyblognews.com
- 100 Deadliest Days on the Road– creativesafetypublishing.com
- Warehouse Traffic Control to Improve Forklift Safety– floor-tape.com
- Prevent Backover Accidents in Construction– babelplex.com
- 5 Safety Tips to Keep Your Employees Safe– blog.5stoday.com
- Tips for Getting Safe in the Workplace– floortape101.com
- Make Your Workplace Safe for 2014– aislemarking.com