With fuel prices still low, many experts predict 2017 will see increased road travel. Employers need to be aware of the risks to workers who drive and take steps to protect them.
Transportation incidents are the No. 1 cause of workplace fatalities, claiming nearly 40 percent of all occupational deaths in the most recent year for which data is available from the government. They are also the top risk for business travelers abroad, especially in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Workplace crashes can be expensive for a company in terms of lost productivity, as well as workers’ comp costs. The good news is the risks can be greatly reduced by taking action.
1. Safe driving policy
Every organization has different needs and may have differing ways to protect employees who drive. However, there are several components that transcend all companies. Having a Safe Driving Policy that is well thought out, supported by all levels of the organization and communicated to employees is key. Among the elements to consider are the following:
- Use of technology. Texting and using hand-held phones while driving should be verboten by all organizations. Many states do not have laws supporting a ban, but research strongly indicates the risk of a crash is greatly increased when drivers text or use hand-held phones.
- Seat belts. These should be required of all drivers. Nearly every state mandates seat belts for drivers.
- Prevent drowsy driving. Accidents involving tired drivers occur most often between the hours of 12 – 2 a.m., 4 – 6 a.m., and 2 – 4 p.m. Companies should allow workers to take breaks for brief naps and to stop for the night if they are too tired. Providing information on good sleep habits is also helpful.
- Alcohol and drugs. Driving after drinking and/or using illegal drugs should be strictly prohibited. The issue can be dicey when prescription medications are involved. At the very least, workers should be given information about the potential effects of certain drugs.
- Plan the trip. The worker and his supervisor together should determine the destination, route and travel schedule. Before sending a driver out, the worker and/or supervisor should check for any adverse road conditions and/or closings.
2. Driver selection
Before putting any employee behind the wheel of a company vehicle, it’s imperative to make sure the person has a valid driver’s license. Employers should also check driving records before hiring employees who are likely to drive for the company, and recheck them annually.
All new hires should be required to undergo driver training. Classroom instruction can address new equipment, regulatory updates, and changes in procedures. If possible, behind-the-wheel training should also be included. A driving expert or trained supervisor can ride with the employee and evaluate his skills and behaviors. Workers should be coached on any unsafe driving behaviors. The employee’s driving performance should be reevaluated at least annually.
Training on particular vehicles is important, as company cars may include equipment and safety features unfamiliar to the worker. Workers should also be informed about any in-vehicle monitoring systems present, including why they are there.
Refresher training can be done periodically to reinforce best practices. Drivers involved in an accident attributed to them should be provided remedial driver training.
4. Vehicle selection/Maintenance
Employers should buy or lease vehicles with high safety ratings. Employers can supply each vehicle with emergency supplies, such as flashlights, flares, blankets and bottled Water.
Vehicles should be inspected on time and maintained according to manufacturers’ timeframes. Also, someone — a designated person or the worker who has most recently driven the vehicle — should ensure tires are properly inflated, and other safety procedures are followed.
The best way to protect employees from motor vehicle crashes is to limit their driving. Employers should consider whether work can be done without travel. If driving is unavoidable, schedules should be established to ensure workers have adequate time to get to their destinations while obeying speeding and other traffic laws. Establishing a company-wide culture of safe driving can reduce risks drivers face.
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Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%. He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices.
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