It is more commonplace for workers to die in an automobile crash while on the job than it is for them to be killed while working on industrial machinery or at a construction site, so says the National Institute For Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH). In fact, this alarming statistic has been the case since 1992. NIOSH reported that roadway car crashes killed 13,337 or 22 percent of all workers between 1992 and 2001.
Driving-related fatalities continued to increase while deaths from all other occupational-related causes dropped. Driving-related deaths averaged approximately one per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers between 1992 and 2001.
With the rising death toll came rising costs. The National Safety Council reported that in 2001 and 2002, injuries arising from roadway crashes averaged $27,500 per workers’ compensation claim. They were the single most costly workers’ compensation injury claim category. Crashes also caused workers to lose more days from work than any other type of work-related injury.
If you have employees who drive, cutting the costs associated with traffic accidents is an important part of your risk management program. The most effective way to cut costs is to institute a safe driver policy, which includes checking your employees’ Motor Vehicle Records (MVR).
Every state in the U.S. maintains MVRs on all of its drivers. This is a record that typically contains information about a person’s driving history, including such information as traffic violations and arrests and convictions for driving-related incidents. Individuals can obtain copies of their own driving records for employment purposes at their local DMV office. You can also obtain a copy of the record if you have the employee sign an MVR consent form.
The most effective way to use an MVR is to make a clean driving record a condition of employment for employees with driving responsibilities. Be sure you follow through and examine a potential employee’s MVR before you make a job offer. Also determine if the applicant has a driver’s license in another state and check the MVR in that state too.
However, that shouldn’t be the only time you check MVRs. Examine those records again on an annual basis for each employee with driving responsibilities. Included in your company’s safe driver policy should be the disciplinary action that will be enforced if you find a moving violation on a driver’s record during an annual check.
Using an MVR in this manner ensures that the employee will take an active role in your company’s driver safety program. As in any risk management strategy, employee buy-in is crucial if your driver safety program is to be effective.
The hazards of the road increase in winter, as the weather becomes less predictable. To avoid these conditions, you might be able to cut down on your driving, but you probably can’t eliminate it altogether…and maybe you wouldn’t want to. Therefore, it’s essential that you take steps to lessen your risk.
As with many things in life, preparation is the key to managing winter driving hazards. The following tips can help to keep you safe on the road, regardless of the weather:
- Check tire pressure monthly. Keep your vehicle’s tires inflated at the manufacturer’s recommended pressure for maximum performance on icy roads. It’s important that you perform a pressure check monthly because a change in temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit changes the tire pressure about one pound per square inch. Added benefits of keeping tires properly inflated include better gas mileage and increased tire life.
- Have your battery checked. Cold slows down the chemical reaction in a car’s battery, which decreases its power output. In fact, starting power drops dramatically below 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure your car’s battery is fully charged to compensate for the drop in output.
- Know what your car is capable of handling. Your vehicle may have all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes and all-weather tires. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that these features are a panacea for all the problems associated with winter driving. Becoming too complacent about the car’s ability to handle tough road conditions is a sure fire way to find yourself in a bad situation.
- Learn to stay focused. When you drive, focus all of your attention on the road so you can anticipate hazards. Keeping your mind on the road ahead allows you to plan for areas that usually remain icy even when roads are clear, like bridges, overpasses and heavily shaded spots. The more aware you are, the better your ability to respond.
- Exercise extra caution when necessary. Intersections with stoplights or stop signs can become deceptively treacherous when the weather is bad. Because so much traffic slides to a halt in the same location, the snow tends to become packed, and develops a slick icy surface. Drivers who spin their tires when starting up from a stopped position compound the problem. To compensate for these conditions, begin braking sooner when approaching an intersection. This will allow you more time to make necessary adjustments.
- Plan when and how you will travel. Travel during daylight hours and wear sunglasses that provide UV protection to shield your eyes from snow and ice glare. Take the most direct route possible to your destination, and allow extra travel time in case you encounter unexpected problems.
Keep your vehicle stocked for an emergency. Be sure to have blankets and snacks in your car or truck to tide you over if you are stranded or stopped by bad road conditions.