SAFETY BY TOM O’CONNOR
According to the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration’s (OSHA)
Safety and Health Resource on Motor
Vehicle Safety, “Unlike other workplaces,
the roadway is not a closed environment.
Preventing work-related roadway crashes
requires strategies that combine traffic
safety principles and sound safety man-
agement practices. Although employers
cannot control roadway conditions, they
can promote safe driving behavior.”
Before allowing an employee to drive,
check their record for traffic violations;
crimes; and suspensions, revocations
and cancellations of driving privileges.
Consider the number and severity of viola-
tions, crashes or incidents, and review the
records at least once a year.
An effective motor vehicle safety
program—one of the best ways to protect
employees—should address safety and
identify the expectations for drivers and
passengers. It applies when a vehicle is
used as an agent of the employer, including when driving company vehicles
for personal use, personal vehicles for
company business, and rental or leased
vehicles for business.
Some key elements of an effective
program include pre- and post-trip
inspections, routine maintenance, defensive driving strategies, wearing seat belts,
and training employees on policies. Rules
should be implemented pertaining to
impaired, aggressive and distracted driving and emergency-response procedures.
During an inspection, the driver
should walk around a vehicle and inspect
fuel and fluid levels, tire pressure, mirrors, lights, windshield wipers and
brakes. Problems must be reported to a
supervisor, and the vehicle should not be
driven until they are rectified.
Conducting routine maintenance also
is important to prevent future incidents.
An improperly maintained vehicle wastes
fuel and may be unsafe to drive. Accord-
ing to the Oregon OSHA’s Safe Driving
for Small Businesses in the Construction
Industry Guide, “An engine tune-up at
regular intervals improves fuel economy
and reduces the risk of a breakdown that
could tie up traffic or cause a crash.”
Defensive tactics teach drivers to be
alert and predict the actions of pedestri-
ans and other drivers. Employees learn to
maintain a 3-second following distance—
more during inclement weather and
when operating large, heavy vehicles—to
allow enough reaction time.
Another component to an effective
motor vehicle safety program is seat belt
use. OSHA estimates that wearing a seat
belt cuts the risk of death by 45 percent
for people riding in cars and by as much
as 60 percent for trucks or SUVs. In addition, every state has a law mandating seat
belt use. Unfortunately, 20 percent of
Americans still fail to comply.
Beyond the safety program, it is
imperative that workers are trained on
all policies. Some employers require
written acknowledgment that employees
have read and understand the policies.
Employees need to be trained how
to respond if an accident occurs. Most
employers equip work vehicles with some
essential supplies for roadside emergen-
cies, including flashlights, reflective safety
vests, light sticks, fire extinguishers, tire
inflators or sealants, reflective
triangles, or road flares.
Teach employees to never drive
aggressively or commit acts of road rage.
Employees represent the company any
time they operate a vehicle as an agent
of their employer.
Distractions and impairments
Distracted or impaired driving causes
a majority of automobile accidents.
Employees should pull off of the road
if they need to use their cell phone or
Every company should have a zero-tolerance policy for drug and alcohol
use, especially when it pertains to driving. Impaired driving is illegal, and the
consequences can be grave. It’s not just
illicit drugs and alcohol that are problematic. Impaired driving can be caused
by some prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications.
Tired driving can be just as dangerous. According to the Oregon OSHA
guide, “Overtime, long work weeks and
driving at night can cause driver fatigue
and increase the risk of a crash.”
Other factors that may affect occu-
Occupational motor vehicle safety
pational motor vehicle safety include
avoiding operation during inclement
weather conditions, using extreme cau-
tion when backing up, not overloading
vehicles with supplies or equipment, and
ensuring all drivers are properly licensed.
Many work vehicles require the posses-
sion of a commercial driver’s license.
Visit the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration at www.nhtsa.gov
or www.osha.gov for more information.
AT MANY WORKPLACES, driving is a part of everyday life. Unfortunately, more
than 1,700 people are killed in occupation-related transportation accidents every
year—roughly 40 percent of all on-the-job fatalities. However, safety precautions
can be taken to help reduce the number of incidents.
O’CONNO R is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting,
training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training
videos and software for contractors. He has significant experience working with national
and international trade associations with an expertise in government affairs. Reach him at
email@example.com. I S T