Driving road safety

by Derek Clouthier

VANCOUVER, B.C. — Trucking companies across the country are well aware of their responsibilities when it comes to road safety, but it’s never a bad idea to provide a bit of a refresher every now and then.

This coming March, B.C.-based occupational health and safety organization Road Safety at Work will present its fourth annual Road Safety at Work Week in an effort to highlight how transportation companies can reduce work-related motor vehicle collisions, and associated deaths and injuries, on provincial roadways.

One of the key roles Road Safety at Work plays is helping to educate employers about all their road safety responsibilities.

“Many employers and their employees seem uncertain that their legal obligations to ensure the safety of employees while they are at work includes when they are driving for work purposes,” said Rick Walters, fleet safety program manager for the organization. “Trucking companies that have to comply with National Safety Code requirements might not be aware of health and safety requirements under the Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.”
It’s no secret that roads safety is important, both from a safety and business perspective.

In B.C., work-related collisions account for 33% of traumatic workplace fatalities. During the last five years there have been 21 deaths due to work-related vehicle accidents each year and another 1,280 injuries resulting in time away from work – 25 days longer than workers injured in ways non-vehicle related.

Road Safety at Work provides a variety of information, guidance, free workshops, online courses, and advisory services to trucking companies to help them understand their legal responsibilities when it comes to road safety.

Walters points out that employers have several broad responsibilities, including when they are driving or being driven for work purposes.

The first requirement is proper training and orientation for assigned driving duties.

“From a training perspective, successful completion of suitable driver training is a good start,” said Walters. “When orienting employees – young workers as well as experienced people that are new hires – it is important to explain aspects of the vehicle they are going to drive and the places and conditions in which they will be operating that vehicle.”

The next step is to ensure drivers have all the qualifications and competencies to operate the required vehicle and not simply a Class 3 or Class 1 licence.

“The expectation is that the employer verifies the employee has the right skills, behaviors, and those competencies,” said Walters. “One way to do that is by observing and evaluating the employee while they drive. It’s kind of a ‘show me’ standard.”

Making sure employees are made aware of all the potential hazards they could face while driving is also important. Applying a proactive process to identify real on-road hazards, assessing the associated risks, and determining what measures will be implemented to reduce those risks Walters said were key focal areas for trucking companies.

Despite the independent nature of a truck driver’s job, Walters said employers must provide necessary supervision to ensure a driver’s safety.

The growing availability of new technologies has helped simplify this effort.

“Even though lots of truck drivers have fairly independent work assignments, employers are still obliged to provide necessary support and supervision,” said Walters. “Implementation of various telematics systems helps, but there are plenty of other ways that supervisors can be involved in day to day work assignments and make positive contributions to employee safety.”

Other safety requirements employers must address include impairment, fatigue, vehicle inspections and maintenance, load securement, incident investigations, and refusing unsafe work assignments. Employees should also ensure their own safety and that of others, whether it be coworkers, other motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists.

“Employees need to know and follow company safe driving policies and procedures, and obey traffic laws,” said Walters. “Workers also have important rights when they are at work – including a duty to refuse work they feel is genuinely unsafe.”

But it’s not just truck drivers who are part of the road safety initiative.

“A lot of motorists out there today really don’t know how to operate their vehicle safely around trucks,” said Walters. “It’s not covered in most driver training classes, and most drivers don’t make the sensible investment.”

B.C.’s “Be Truck Aware” campaign, launched October 2017, is an effort to address this issue.

Companies looking to ensure the safety of their drivers and others on the road should look at three key factors when developing a safety plan: make sure your drivers have all the necessary skills to safety complete driving assignments; have your fleet prepared for winter and adverse driving conditions; and make road safety a company priority.

“Don’t leave your drivers alone to figure out how to survive our roads and highways,” Walters urged. “Get company owners, managers, and supervisors actively involved in ensuring the safety of all employees. Have a road safety plan that explains expectations and then get to work helping employees deliver on those expectations.

“Think of how trucks, trailers, equipment, loads, highways, other vehicles and other drivers have changed in the last 10 years. It’s not fair to expect that with all those changes, every truck driver automatically knows how to safely incorporate those changes in how they drive their truck.”

Road Safety at Work Week
Running from March 5-9, 2018, Walters said Road Safety at Work Week will encourage employers to protect their greatest asset – their people.

“Living up to legal requirements is part of the message,” he said, “but there are plenty of other good reasons why it makes good sense to ensure employees get home safely every night.”

Walters encourages transportation companies to take part in the Road Safety at Work Week challenge. The organization’s website – www.roadsafetyatwork.ca – will offer ideas and resources companies can use to improve road safety, and participation will be encouraged by providing opportunities for people to share what they did during the week, with prizes being awarded.

Road Safety at Work is managed by the Justice Institute of B.C. and funded by WorkSafeBC.

Visit https://roadsafetyatwork.ca/road-safety-at-work-week/overview to learn more about Road Safety at Work Week.

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