Safety Smart Employees: Driving Safely at Work

Safety Smart-Work

In the last week of National Safety Month, the National Safety Council brings attention to driving safely at work. Last week we gave you “Three Workplace Hazard Observation Tips.” With this week’s theme of “Share Roads Safely,” we thought we’d move from hazard identification to hazard prevention by discussing how to promote safe driving in and outside of the workplace.

Distracted driving is defined as driving while anything else is drawing away your attention. This includes talking and texting, putting on makeup, and eating or drinking. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), distracted driving is responsible for 5,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. This represents 16% of all fatal crashes.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that distractions can be visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), or cognitive (taking your mind off driving). In recent years, concern over smartphones in the car has risen dramatically, and rightfully so; phones are so dangerous because they combine all three types of distractions.

Distracted DrivingThe effect of phones on focus is worsened by what AAA reports as a “latency” effect. This means that even after you pause the distractive activity (for example, looking up from your phone), you are still unfocused on driving for 27 seconds. Based on the number of distracted driving accidents, this is more than enough time for something terrible to happen.

Considering the amount of time employees spend driving to, from, and during work, it’s important to recognize the role employers can play in fostering safe driving.

Encourage Responsible Driving

Responsible driving can be encouraged even before work begins. By avoiding policies that penalize employees when they are late due to circumstances beyond their control, you diminish the odds of employees taking dangerous risks due to over-aggressive driving. For example, when extreme weather interrupts regular transportation schedules and prevents employees from arriving to work on time. Alternatively, consider encouraging employees to work from home where possible when extreme weather is a risk factor.

Responsible driving is also important during work hours and this is definitely an opportunity for employers to influence worker behavior. For example, safety professionals suspect that the way truck drivers are paid may lead to unsafe driving habits. They’re advocating for a study that would look into how compensation methods might encourage drivers “to violate federal hours of service rules that limit driving time and work while fatigued in order to rack up miles and earn more pay.” Other simple actions, such as allowing employees who previously worked overtime to come into work later the next day also support safe driving because they allow the employee to catch up on sleep and avoid driving drowsily.

Implement Safe Driving Policies

According to NIOSH, the best ways to prevent distracted driving at work are to communicate its risks and implement policies that both ban the practice of distracted driving and appropriately discipline employees who do it anyway.

Examples of policies that diminish the chances of distracted driving occurring include banning the use of phones while driving a company vehicle, banning the use of hands-free phones (which still provide a cognitive distraction if not a visual and manual one), and installing an application on company phones that automatically replies to texts received while driving. Health and Safety Ontario has a terrific online resource for those who are looking for more detail on how to implement an effective policy for safe driving.

Create a Drive Safe Work Environment

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to set your employees up for safe driving success. At a minimum, this means servicing your fleet and ensuring that your employees are driving safe vehicles. This also means conducting vehicle inspections using certified inspectors who know what issues to look for.

Further to this, creating a drive safe work environment means taking vehicle concerns seriously— if an employee voices a problem, express appreciation and not frustration with any delays that may arise. By prioritizing safety, you show employees that you care about them and not just how quickly they can do their jobs. Evidence from insurance firm Liberty Mutual suggests that attention paid to safety ultimately results in increased productivity in the long-term. Conversely, attempting to silence employees who care about safety can result in severe penalties and damage to company culture, as happened recently when a company fired an employee for acting safely only to be disciplined by OSHA. Creating a drive safe work environment means rewarding employees who care, not reprimanding them.

NSM 2016 logo

Share Roads Safely” represents an important and often overlooked area of company safety culture. “Safety Smart” employers would be well-served by demonstrating their commitment to employee safety when it comes to driving.

They can do this in many ways. Encouraging employees to be well-rested and less stressed before coming to work will only lead to better results on the job. Implementing safe driving policies will go a long way to safeguarding company assets, both material and human Finally, creating an environment where employees are rewarded for noticing unsafe equipment will reinforce the idea that management cares what employees think. This will lead to employees not only pointing out when something is wrong, but suggesting opportunities for good processes to be made better.

Visit the National Safety Council’s website for more information on National Safety Month and other workplace safety resources.

How does your workforce “share roads safely”? Do you have any additional advice for safety professionals looking to encourage this behavior in their workforce? Leave a comment and let us know!

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