Safety! Safety? Safety.

Safety has become a really overused word. It is used, abused, and applied to all manner of things, but in our workplace I wonder if we really understand what we mean by safety. When you ask for safety in your workplace what do you expect; and is the safety you get anything close to what you wanted?

The problem is that we have many layers of safety in our industry. We operate under a National Safety Code and we must hold a valid Safety Certificate to operate. On the shelf somewhere is the safety plan we needed to be compliant, and outside of the hours of service pretty much everything deals with equipment, not the person doing the work.

Unfortunately, none of these has anything to do with making sure your workers are not going to get hurt while trying to do the job. So often it’s the simple things that have big consequences. For example, a report on general trucking in BC found that falls from elevation from 2007-2011 resulted in an average of over seventeen-thousand days lost per year. Yes, that is thousands. Obviously falling is a job hazard, and employers are responsible for orienting and training workers to deal with it correctly, and this is just one aspect of occupational safety.

In the big picture, as a safety professional, I am concerned with losses. First and most important of course is the prevention of injuries, but loss also means preventing damages to equipment, cargo, and facilities. These are all things that affect the bottom line, your capacity to do work, and even your reputation. Not being able to complete a delivery because you have a guy off with a shoulder injury is quite possibly worse for business than not getting that job in the first place.

So when we say safety are we talking about the truck or the person operating it? You know, the one who has to crawl underneath or on top dragging tools, chains, tarps or binders. The one who puts out triangles and flares and then tries to get things going while running along the side of a busy road. Have we spent the time to locate those dangers, and inform our workers on how to deal with them in a safe manner?

A proper understanding of what we mean when we discuss safety—that it is more than just a buzzword; that it can refer to both people and equipment, and have implications both tangible and intangible; that it affects our industry at all levels and in ways that are sometimes surprising—can help us to get out of an all too common rut when thinking about it. Too often we are set in our ways with safety, doing things one way because that is the way they’ve always been done. With our industry’s capacity for innovation, however, we should be able to come up with fresh ways of looking at such an important and far-reaching topic. We can improve on safety and make it just another part of our everyday business.

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Earl has more than 20 years of road experience. He started with long haul and later swapped the transportation of packages for people. Working as a professional bus driver driving intercity and charter buses, his favourite destination was Reno, NV. Moving into the position of driver instructor was a natural progression that he enjoyed for the challenges it provided.

Earl has a Diploma of Technology in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) from the BC Institute of Technology and is a Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP). He is responsible for providing OHS advisory services to companies, developing the SafetyDriven OHS programs and curriculum, as well as research regarding health and safety in the trucking industry.

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  • What i love about the safety issue is that you can put all the the safety plans in the world in place and the government will come along and blow it out of the water in a second.
    All you have to look at is the states that wont let you on the hiway with snow on your roof of the trailer.
    They will fine you for snow up there but you are not allowed by law to be up there without fall protection.
    What truck driver carries fall protection equipment in there truck and how do you get on top of 13 foot 6 inch trailer.
    Yup safety is wonderful idea but most companies don’t take the idea seriously or spend money on it even with all the crying about being safe.
    If they were serious about it we wouldn’t have all the injuries we have.
    You go into most offices you will see ergonomically correct chairs and computer key boards ect. ect ect.
    But what do drivers get crappy seats and beds in there truck,s no fall protection, heavy traps for there loads. Chains which you have to drag up on top of loads with aforementioned no fall protection.
    So safety is a trucking buzzword for the trucking executives to make them feel good. But it just that sound and feel good thing.
    But to the drivers out there be safe and very careful. You dont need to be off the job with broken bones or worse.

    • bcgofer, It’s true that there are many areas needing to improve, but we are seeing small positive changes all over, and many small changes do add up to big change. Tomorrows big competitors will be those companies who actively integrate real safety into their operations today.