NSC National Safety Month: Driving Safety

NSC National Safety Month Driving Safety

During the month of June, the National Safety Council (NSC) is observing its annual National Safety Month. For 2020, NSC is focusing on four very important areas of health and safety including ergonomics, driving safety, building a safety culture, and mental health.

This week, we’re taking a look at driving safety. Whether it’s heading to the job site or heading to the store, most of us drive for work or in our personal lives every single day. It can be easy to just hop in your vehicle and not give much thought to the risk of a motor vehicle accident, but that risk is always there and it can be life-altering. We must always remain vigilant when it comes to driving safety. Doing so saves lives.

The Single Greatest Threat to Workers

According to NSC and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), transportation-related incidents (i.e. motor vehicle accidents) are the fourth most frequent cause of non-fatal work-related injuries in 2018.

non-fatal injury statistics

At first glance, you might think there are relatively few transportation-related injuries compared to the top three causes (overexertion; slips, trips and falls; contact with objects/equipment). However, driving-related fatalities accounted for 40% of all work-related fatalities in 2018, claiming the lives of 2,080 people and making it the single greatest cause of death among U.S. workers. That’s 2,080 families that were torn apart by something that was entirely preventable.

The Risks to Businesses

A 2018 study by a leading fleet management service provider estimated that vehicle crashes cost employers $56.7 billion annually in direct costs including medical care, legal expenses and penalties, property damage, vehicle repair, increased workers’ compensation premiums, vehicle insurance premiums, and private health and disability insurance premiums, just to name a few. A 2003 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) calculated that the average crash costs an employer $16,500, while work-related transportation accidents that result in non-fatal injuries cost employers an average of $74,000 and fatal incidents can average upwards of $500,000.

Transportation-related incidents also burden employers with indirect costs including administrative costs, lost productivity, employee turnover, and damage to your business’ reputation that are more difficult to quantify. Even non-work transportation incidents can place a costly burden on employers in terms of lost time and productivity, and medical insurance costs.

Common Causes & Hazards Contributing to Transportation Incidents

Unsecured Materials & Equipment

Materials, equipment and other objects both inside and outside of the vehicle should be safely secured during transport to prevent movement. Whether during normal driving conditions, when making sudden defensive maneuvers or in the event of a vehicle impact, loose objects can slide around or become airborne, potentially striking the driver, passengers and other motorists.

Seat Belt Use

It should be common knowledge by this point, but during a crash or sudden stop, occupants not wearing seat belts can violently impact the steering wheel, windshield or other parts of the vehicle interior, or they may be ejected from the vehicle. Seat belts are the single most effective means of reducing deaths and serious injuries in traffic crashes, saving nearly 12,000 lives and preventing 325,000 serious injuries in the U.S. each year.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving has been identified as a factor in 25-30% of all traffic crashes. With hectic schedules and many workers spending a significant portion of their work day behind the wheel, multi-tasking to keep up with both personal and work-related responsibilities while driving is unfortunately all too common. The average driver has to make more than 200 decisions for every mile traveled, so it’s critical for workers who drive to understand that safe driving is their first priority.

Impaired Driving

NHTSA estimates that 3 in 10 Americans will be involved in an impaired driving-related incident some time in their life. Alcohol, controlled substances, prescription drugs and even over-the-counter medications can all affect a person’s ability to drive, causing decreased alertness, concentration, coordination and reaction time. NHTSA studies found that alcohol use is involved in 40% of all fatal motor vehicle crashes, and 39% of all work-related traffic incidents.

Fatigued Driving

Fatigued or drowsy driving contributes to more than 100,000 traffic incidents each year, many of which result in injury and/or death. This number could be significantly greater, as many fatigue-related crashes are believed to be under-reported or improperly categorized. All workers, whether they drive as a central part of their job responsibility or not, should be well rested and alert on the road so they can maintain full control of their vehicles and be prepared to quickly exercise defensive driving maneuvers when hazards are present.

Aggressive Driving

It’s common for workers commuting to and from work or traveling for work purposes to find themselves running late, or dealing with heavy traffic and other frustrations on the road. This can lead to aggressive driving behaviors including speeding, tailgating, erratic lane changes, failure to come to complete stops at red lights and stop signs, and other unsafe actions. Drivers must always be mindful of the effects these scenarios can have on our mood and actively avoid aggressive driving behaviors. Employers should also understand that traffic conditions can be unpredictable, and that workers personal schedules (dropping kids off at school, keeping personal appointments, etc.) can cause delays. Avoid disciplinary policies that punish worker tardiness, and emphasize that workers should plan commute times into their schedules and allow extra time for potential delays.

Young Drivers

NHTSA data shows that 16 to 20-year-old drivers are involved in a disproportionate percentage of traffic incidents. Statistically, this age demographic has the lowest rate of seat belt use, and is more likely to engage in aggressive, impaired or fatigued driving behaviors. Recognizing this fact, Federal law prohibits 16-year-old workers from driving as part of their job, and 17-year-old employees may drive for work only under limited circumstances. Be sure to check applicable labor regulations in your jurisdiction, as state laws may impose tighter restrictions than the Federal regulations.

It is especially important for employers with young workers to promote safe driving practices. All employers should consider implementing a graduated driver licensing (GDL) policy for all employees, similar to those implemented in many states for motorists in the general public, regardless of worker age but especially for young drivers. GDL policies have been shown to achieve major reductions in motor vehicle accidents among young or less-experienced motorists.

Developing & Implementing a Workplace Driving Safety Program

No business can afford to ignore the life-threatening and catastrophic impacts of transportation-related injuries and fatalities, but employers should remember that these incidents are almost wholly preventable. Formal driving safety programs are an essential tool to promoting greater awareness of these risks and ensuring workers engage in safer driving behaviors. Workplace driving safety programs not only offer a systematic way to prevent and control these serious risks, but also send a valuable message to workers that their employers care about them both at work, and at home.

The ultimate function of your workplace driving safety program is to provide instruction in basic safe driving practices, change driver attitudes, improve driving behaviors, and award safety-conscious driving behavior. Guidance provided by OSHA, NHTSA and the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) points to 10 key elements of a workplace driving safety program that can give you a solid basis for the program you implement in your workplace. Following these steps helps to ensure that you hire capable drivers, only allow eligible drivers to drive on company business, that drivers are properly trained and supervised, and that company vehicles are maintained to ensure the highest level of safety. The 10 program elements are:

Management Commitment & Employee Involvement

Like many other EHS management systems and standards such as ISO 45001:2018, management should be directly and intimately involved in developing and enforcing your workplace driving safety program. Management is responsible for providing leadership, establishing policies, allocating sufficient resources to support the program, and actively encouraging employee participation and involvement at all levels. Workers need to see the commitment and active support from managers for your program to succeed.

Written Policies and Procedures

All of the elements of your driver safety program should be formally documented, including the goals and objectives of the program, the individuals responsible for administering the program, driver safety program policies, procedures for implementing the functional aspects of the program, and a formal framework for evaluating and improving driving safety program performance.

One place to start when developing your program policies is to address recognized unsafe driving behaviors and driving hazards. For example, you should develop policies for:

  • Alcohol and Drug Use (including routine drug and alcohol screenings)
  • Seat Belt Use
  • Fatigued/Distracted/Aggressive Driving
  • Vehicle Selection, Inspection & Maintenance
  • Hours of Service
  • Young Drivers & GDL Programs

Other aspects of driving safety that should be addressed in your program policies include:

  • Incident Investigation & Reporting
  • Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) Checks
  • Safe Driving Incentive Programs
  • Disciplinary Programs
  • Employee Involvement in Program Development & Evaluation
  • Driving Safety Training & Re-Training
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Any other policies unique to your program or workplace (equipment specific training, operator certifications,

Like other written safety programs in your workplace, your driving safety program should be made readily available to everyone in the organization. Distribute the program throughout the workplace, and regularly discuss and update policies during company/stakeholder meetings.

Driver Agreements

All employees whose duties include driving, and even employees whose driving is limited to commuting should sign an agreement acknowledging their participation in the driving safety program, their awareness of your program policies, and that their employment is conditioned upon adherence to those policies.

Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) Checks

Always review and monitor driving records for all employees who drive for work purposes. You must screen out drivers who have poor driving records or who have an unacceptable history of traffic violations. These drivers present a high risk of future citations or involvement in transportation-related incidents. Clearly define the number of violations an employee/driver can have before losing the privilege of driving for work, and provide training and re-training when necessary.

Incident Reporting & Investigation

Establish and enforce incident reporting and investigation procedures to ensure ALL transportation-related incidents and near-misses, no matter how insignificant, are reported to supervisors as soon as possible so that investigations can be performed in a timely manner. Thorough and timely investigation is critical to understanding of the root causes of incidents, and will ultimately provide the basis for implementing future safety controls and other program improvements.

Your policies should clearly define what information must be included incident reports and collected during investigations. They should also clearly define how that information should be reported and submitted, and establish formal workflows for accepting, reviewing and following up on incident reports and investigations. Employers should consider an incident management software system to help you coordinate the data and workflows required for submitting incident reports, performing investigations and root cause analysis, and implementing corrective actions.

Vehicle Selection, Maintenance and Inspection

Selecting safer vehicles for your fleet, and routinely inspecting and maintaining company vehicles is an important part of preventing and minimizing transportation-related incidents. Vehicles should be on a routine and thoroughly-documented inspection schedule to maintain safety equipment and ensure proper mechanical function. Inspections should be performed frequently by qualified mechanics, with inspection results documented and made readily available to operators and other maintenance personnel. Where issues are identified, you should establish defined workflows and identify responsible individuals so that repairs and replacements can be approved and performed in a quick, systematic and traceable manner.

If workers routinely use personal vehicles for company business, they should also be inspected and maintained in a manner consistent with your fleet vehicles to ensure maximum safety, and that employees’ personal vehicles reflect positively on your business.

Disciplinary Actions

Establish clear expectations for workers' compliance with driving safety program policies and requirements. Rely on your incident investigations to determine root causes of transportation-related incidents. If driver/operator error or direct violation of program policies is determined to be the cause, disciplinary action may be required. Beware of jumping to the conclusion that driver/operator error is the cause of transportation-related incidents. There is more often a program-related failure that resulted in gaps in the effectiveness of your driving safety program, at no fault to the driver/operator.

To learn more about root cause analysis concepts and methodologies, watch our on-demand webinar “Root Cause Analysis: Improve Investigation of Incidents, Near Hits and Hazards.”

There are different disciplinary program types to choose from including zero-tolerance policies and progressive points-based systems. In some cases, zero-tolerance policies are necessary where compliance and liability risks are extreme, or where applicable regulations apply. In other scenarios, a points-based system can actually be more effective. Points-based systems assign points penalties for program infractions or incidents, with specific infractions incurring varying points values which reflect their severity and consequence. Once a worker accumulates a predetermined value of points, that worker may have their driving privileges removed, or even be terminated.

Incentive Programs

Conversely, you should also develop a safe driving incentive program to reward engagement and compliance with your driving safety program, and promote your overall workplace safety culture. Safe driving behaviors contribute directly to the bottom line, and should be recognized as such. Incentives can be just about anything you like, but your incentive programs should reward proactive driving safety behaviors and leading indicators, rather than rewarding the mere absence of transportation-related incidents, which are a lagging indicator. For example, reward workers for participation in driver safety training sessions, reporting near-misses, performing inspections and other preventive behaviors.

Driver Training & Communication

Solicit worker input on the best methods to deliver driving safety training, and consider a blended learning approach that incorporates both eLearning training content and hands-on behind the wheel training. Even experienced drivers require periodic training and re-training to reinforce safe driving practices and skills. It is easy to become complacent and downplay the risks of motor vehicle accidents, but the right training content delivered right when you need it can be invaluable in reinforcing safe driving behaviors.

Regulatory Compliance

Ensure strict adherence to ALL highway safety regulations. It is important to clearly identify which local, state and federal regulations apply to your fleet vehicles and drivers. You should perform a comprehensive applicability analysis to determine which regulations apply, and continuously review your applicability as vehicle classifications may change depending on operations and location.

Continuous Improvement in Driving Safety

Like your other workplace EHS programs, your driving safety program should include a formal evaluation process to measure program performance and provide the basis for continuous improvement of driving safety in the workplace. It’s worth repeating that it can be easy for workers to overlook or forget about the significant risks they face every time they get behind the wheel, so you should be vigilant in continuously reinforcing safe driving behaviors, and always looking for ways to further reduce risks.

Additional NSC Driving Safety Resources

In observance of National Safety Month, NSC has published a variety of driving safety resources that you can download to help educate workers and members of your community on driving risks and safer driving behaviors.

VelocityEHS Can Help!

VelocityEHS solutions can help you quickly, easily and effectively manage multiple elements of your workplace driving safety program. Whether it's documenting compliance with program policies and regulatory requirements, tracking and reporting transportation-related incidents, managing fleet inspections and maintenance, delivering driver safety training content or evaluating program performance, VelocityEHS offers you the tools to manage your workplace driving safety program from one centralized, user-friendly cloud software solution.

To see how VelocityEHS can help you improve the safety of your workplace, Request a Demo today or give us a call at 1.866.919.7922