Use NAOSH Week To Highlight Safety

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Nothing demonstrates the importance of workplace safety better than a recent report on injuries in the province of Alberta. This January alone, 146 employees in the trucking industry accounted for $106,386 in workers’ compensation claims. Based on the trends in 2008, about one in every four of these workers will be off the job between eight and 30 days.

That will have an undeniable impact on productivity – not to mention the WCB premiums paid by affected fleets. A standard premium is worth about $3.50 on every $1,000 of payroll, but adjustments can range from a discount of 60% to a surcharge of 250%. This could equate to a difference of as much as $6,000 for every million dollars of payroll.

It is easy to understand why fleets need to remain committed to workplace safety.

The trucking industry’s workplace safety initiatives usually focus on drivers and the equipment they operate. A commitment to fatigue management is a logical extension to the rules governing hours-of-service, and proper circle check procedures will help to ensure that equipment is safe to drive.

But workplace safety affects every employee within the fleet.

Warehouse personnel, for example, need to take the steps to protect themselves around forklifts and follow the ergonomic practices that will help them avoid injuries. Even office workers need to understand how to protect themselves from the dangers of repetitive stress injuries, and know their respective roles during an emergency.

North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week – to be held from May 3 to 9 – offers an ideal opportunity to draw attention to the safe practices that members of your organization should follow on a daily basis.

The annual event is devoted to focusing employers, employees and the general public on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace. And its history is also proudly Canadian. The week, first established in 1997 during talks surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement, expanded on the Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Week that had been observed from 1986 to 1996.

It has established an ideal time to focus, reinforce and strengthen your fleet’s commitment to occupational health and safety.

The week can be used as a backdrop for a safety review that can ensure appropriate protective gear is being used in every corner of the business. Dock employees alone should have access to everything from proper footwear to eye protection and hard hats, depending on the material that is being handled. Clinics can be offered on the proper use of everything from respirators to forklifts. And personnel throughout your business can be reminded about the emergency preparedness plans that have been put in place to help everyone prepare for the worst.

NAOSH Week also offers an ideal opportunity to celebrate the safety-related gains that have been made. Safe driving awards can be presented alongside announcements that focus on the number of hours without a workplace related injury, while company newsletters can incorporate thank-you letters for the commitment to workplace safety.

This type of awareness campaign can be offered on a limited budget as well, simply by leveraging some of the resources that already exist. For example, local health authorities, workplace compensation boards and hospitals offer an array of outreach programs to address health-related issues from proper dietary habits to first aid. Provincial trucking associations and the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering ( offer affordable support of their own. And the suppliers of safety equipment are always eager to show how their offerings should be used.

Fleets can re-visit some of the programs that are already in place, to ensure the activities continue to match the commitments that have been made. But education-related efforts should reach beyond the fleet’s workforce.

Ottawa Hydro even took the opportunity to help workers apply their Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) knowledge to identify hazardous materials in the home. The information obviously does not need to stop at the end of your driveway.

It would also be an ideal time to enhance outreach efforts in the community, to ensure that your neighbours understand their own roles in highway safety, and how to behave around the trucks that leave your yard every day.

Many members of your fleet may be surprised to learn just how widespread your commitment to safety has become. These are all steps that can help to protect members of your fleet family and the community at large. And that is something worth celebrating.

– This month’s expert is Rick Geller. Rick is the national manager of safety and training services for Markel Insurance Company of Canada and has more than 25 years experience providing loss control and risk management services to the trucking industry. Send your questions, feedback and comments about this column Safety and Training Services offers specialized courses, seminars and consulting to fleet owners, safety managers, trainers and drivers.

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