Trailer Under-ride Guards (Don’t Lose Your Head in a Crash)

Though our headline/title may seem a like a very bad joke, we’re deadly serious.  Motorists who drive too fast, tailgate or drive “distracted” behind large tractor-trailer rigs are putting themselves in harm’s way — they could become decapitated if they crash into the rear corner of a trailer at speeds as low as 35 miles per hour.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducts many different kinds of crash testing. Recently (this March) they conducted crash testing of many different brands of trailers to see the effects on a 2010 Chevy Malibu and its crash-test-dummy occupants.  Only one brand of trailer saved the dummies in all three types of testing scenarios.  This was accomplished by using a different approach to the manufacturing of the under-ride guard.

Since most motorists won’t be able to pick and choose which type of trailer they crash into, they need to give tractor-trailer rigs a wide berth on the highway — stay out of their “no-zone” or blind areas, especially the area immediately behind the trailer.

To better illustrate the seriousness of the situation, please take a moment to watch this informative video from IIHS.

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Don’t Let Your Driver Safety Incentive Program Spell Trouble with OSHA

moneyThere’s been a surge of interest in fleet safety/driver safety incentive programs to capture the attention of drivers and influence a stronger focus on driving safely to avoid crashes, and resulting damages. 

We’ve seen many clients incorporate various reward programs into their efforts with impressive short-term results and questionable long-term sustainability.  Our recent article “Motivating Drivers to Make Safer Choices” (LINK) offers basic, foundational advice to bolster results before approaching incentives.

However you stack up your fleet safety incentive efforts, be certain that you are NOT digging a deeper hole on your Worker’s Compensation / Workplace Injury compliance efforts.

OSHA had put out a memorandum (LINK) on this issue in March of last year, and its relative importance has been recently re-surfaced among safety networks.

In part the memo states:

There are several types of workplace policies and practices that could discourage reporting and could constitute unlawful discrimination and a violation of section 11(c) and other whistleblower protection statutes. Some of these policies and practices may also violate OSHA’s recordkeeping regulations, particularly the requirement to ensure that employees have a way to report work-related injuries and illnesses. 29 C.F.R. 1904.35(b)(1). I list the most common potentially discriminatory policies below. OSHA has also observed that the potential for unlawful discrimination under all of these policies may increase when management or supervisory bonuses are linked to lower reported injury rates. While OSHA appreciates employers using safety as a key management metric, we cannot condone a program that encourages discrimination against workers who report injuries.[emphasis added]

It continues by citing several scenarios that would be considered problematic, and then delivers this message of mixed cautions and positive suggestions:

Finally, some employers establish programs that unintentionally or intentionally provide employees an incentive to not report injuries. For example, an employer might enter all employees who have not been injured in the previous year in a drawing to win a prize, or a team of employees might be awarded a bonus if no one from the team is injured over some period of time. Such programs might be well-intentioned efforts by employers to encourage their workers to use safe practices. However, there are better ways to encourage safe work practices, such as incentives that promote worker participation in safety-related activities, such as identifying hazards or participating in investigations of injuries, incidents or “near misses”. OSHA’s VPP Guidance materials refer to a number of positive incentives, including providing tee shirts to workers serving on safety and health committees; offering modest rewards for suggesting ways to strengthen safety and health; or throwing a recognition party at the successful completion of company-wide safety and health training. See Revised Policy Memo #5 – Further Improvements to VPP (June 29, 2011).

Incentive programs that discourage employees from reporting their injuries are problematic because, under section 11(c), an employer may not “in any manner discriminate” against an employee because the employee exercises a protected right, such as the right to report an injury. FRSA similarly prohibits a railroad carrier, contractor or subcontractor from discriminating against an employee who notifies, or attempts to notify, the railroad carrier or the Secretary of Transportation of a work-related personal injury. If an employee of a firm with a safety incentive program reports an injury, the employee, or the employee’s entire work group, will be disqualified from receiving the incentive, which could be considered unlawful discrimination.[emphais added] One important factor to consider is whether the incentive involved is of sufficient magnitude that failure to receive it “might have dissuaded reasonable workers from” reporting injuries. Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 68 (2006).

In addition, if the incentive is great enough that its loss dissuades reasonable workers from reporting injuries, the program would result in the employer’s failure to record injuries that it is required to record under Part 1904. In this case, the employer is violating that rule, and a referral for a recordkeeping investigation should be made. If the employer is a railroad carrier, contractor or subcontractor, a violation of FRA injury-reporting regulations may have occurred and a referral to the FRA may be appropriate. This may be more likely in cases where an entire workgroup is disqualified because of a reported injury to one member, because the injured worker in such a case may feel reluctant to disadvantage the other workgroup members.

So if you employ drivers and operate an incentive plan that rewards reductions in injuries (even if related to Motor Vehicle Crashes), you should consider whether your program could present issues with OSHA.

Another safety professional recently posted this suggestion (LINK) to help with incentive programs (and this is his own opinion, not necessarily reflective of SafetyFirst’s opinions):

An incentive program based on reporting of observations and near misses produces more and better results than zero accident/recordable programs, because it acknowledges the reality  that injuries or incidents will occur. When used correctly, leading indicators identify breakdowns or weaknesses before they become a problem.

Here are just two of many ideas for leading indicator incentive programs:

  • Establish goals for the number of observations reported: Be creative! This can be applied organization-wide, by department and at the employee level.
  • Near-Miss Committee: This is a function outside the traditional safety committee. Typically a near-miss investigation only involves management. This approach encompasses other personnel, including employees who can assist with root-cause analysis and prevention.

These types of programs still give the employee’s an incentive to be attentive to safety. 

To the extent that you may want to leverage observation reporting and near miss reporting, you may want to investigate our How’s My Driving Hotline program and MVR profiling programs.  Each is linked to robust online reporting, including 4-digit SIC benchmarking and easy telematics integration.  Neither program discourages reporting of actual injuries, but could be a surrogate / stand-in for incentive metrics.

Changing your reporting metrics from counting injuries to counting telematics alerts, camera-in-cabin events, how’s my driving reports and other factors may be helpful in reducing risk while avoiding the temptation for employees to suppress proper reports of actual workplace injuries.

Webinar: Motivating Drivers to Make Safer Decisions

Everest National Insurance, together with Aspen Risk Management Group hosted a webinar today (4/23/2013) on the topic “Motivating Drivers to Make Safer Decisions“.   SafetyFirst’s CEO, Paul Farrell, was the presenter.

The topic is timely and vital to fleet operations regardless of their native industry type or business model” says Farrell.  “We’ve learned over the past thirty years that ninety percent of commercial vehicle collisions are due to driver’s attitudes, actions, choices, beliefs and assumptions about risk taking while driving.  If drivers operate in violation of safety policies,   and we can diagnose why this is happening, we’re on the path to getting their cooperation and compliance.

Dan Lessnau, VP of Sales at SafetyFirst contributed this thought; “While technology can play a very important role in enhancing both vehicle and driver safety results, the human factor can’t be underestimated.  When managers make time to self-audit their current practices, evaluate their successes and apparent failures, they’re enabling themselves to define a solid benchmark to build upon.”

While many drivers do operate their vehicle in compliance with company policy and state traffic laws, some violate these guidelines for various reasons.  Noncompliance can lead to traffic violations and crashes with damaged vehicles, injuries or even fatalities.  These negative outcomes influence business results, BASIC measures (in regulated fleets) and even insurance premiums when rated on a past-loss basis.

Of those drivers who are consistently non-compliant with company driving policies, there are four distinct populations of drivers:

  1. Those who are genuinely unaware of the nature of the risk or the policy which is in place to address that issue. (aka Training/Education Issue)
  2. Motivating Drivers to be saferThose who are aware that there is some degree of risk and/or that there is a policy in place to address this type of behavior, but there is also a genuine misunderstanding about the nature of the risk (consequences) or what the policy is communicating. (aka Communications Issue)
  3. Those who understand the nature of the risk and the intent of the policy very clearly, but fail to comply out of conflicting expectations from their own management team (i.e. “Hypocritical Enforcement or a “goal alignment issue” where the actual rewards and benefits for violating the policy (i.e. pay, productivity, etc.) may be greater for non-compliance than for compliance.) (aka Goal Alignment)
  4. Those who understand the nature of the risk and intent of the policy, but simply choose to violate the policy by sheer willful decision.  (aka Performance Issue)

Diagnosing why non-compliant drivers are violating policy based on the model described above is the starting point to improving results.  Questions like the ones below could be used to help diagnose why some drivers may not have been aware of the policy, or didn’t understand the policy fully enough to comply on a consistent basis:

  • Are all drivers fully aware of our expectations for their performance?
  • How have we communicated these expectations?
  • How do we know that the message was received and understood?
  • Did we take a “once and done” approach or have we used thoughtfully repetitive messaging to reinforce the communication effort?
  • Have we evaluated the simplicity of the wording used since legal teams often interject very precise wording that may be difficult to understand?
  • Did we use illustrative examples to clarify how the policy would be applied in realistic scenarios?

Drivers who heard the policy and understood the expectation may require additional information to translate their understanding into positive action.  For instance, going the extra step to explain why the policy is needed, what goals are being sought through the policy and “what’s in it for me, the driver?” could provide motivation for some to voluntarily comply on a consistent basis.

Other concerns include how the message gets delivered.  Some old-line managers valueYou tell his mommy the melodramatic message to shock people and use emotion to motivate compliance.  This image and message accomplishes that goal, but this approach can be overused and become ineffective for several reasons.

First, a steady bombardment of this type of heavy handed messaging may make drivers feel like they are villains or make them angry if there is hypocritical enforcement (i.e. managers breaking the same rules with impunity).  Secondly, youthful drivers have been raised on a steady diet of “just say NO” messaging or “this is your brain on drugs” messaging and they have become increasingly calloused towards the approach.  “Our caution is to evaluate the types of messaging being used and take great care to avoid over reliance on one type or style.  A great variety of messaging mechanisms keeps the information fresh and attractive.” commented Farrell.

Goal Alignment, Mixed Signals, Crossed Purposes

That segment of drivers who understand fully, but don’t comply by choice may be doing so for a range of reasons.

First, we must recognize that from the driver’s own perspective, rules such as state traffic laws or company policy can seem like suggestions:

  • compliance isn’t monitored or enforced with consistency
  • the consequences for non-compliance are not feared (i.e. seen either as trivial or unlikely to occur)
  • bigger reward for non-compliance than for compliance undermines value of adhering to policies
  • “just don’t care” factor (personal liberty is more valuable that potential consequences of non-compliance)

The “just don’t care” factor can be best illustrated in light of Virginia Technical Transportation Institute and Insurance Information for Highway Safety studies showing:

  • Policethe difference in compliance between companies with cell phone bans versus no policy at all = %17 (neither complied very well)
  • no measurable difference in early results between those states with a cell phone ban versus those with a strong ban in place.
  • crashes rose slightly in those states with a ban versus those without.

Dealing with this segment of the driver population (understands policy, but rejects compliance) may boil down to monitoring and enforcement actions, which will be discussed in the final segment of the article.

Next we must open our eyes to operations teams who reward productivity through bonuses, stronger pay raises, or management praise while sending signals to drivers that speeding, using hand-held cell phones while driving and other risky practices are worth broken rules if it means more revenue.   If drivers believe that the possible rewards gained by breaking the rules outweigh the risk of the potential, but likely consequences, they’ll continue to violate the policies.  

Some drivers break the rules because the management team encourages them to do so — for instance, no one is to use their cell while driving “UNLESS” it is their boss on the line demanding to speak with the driver immediately.  This sort of hypocritical enforcement adds to confusion about compliance and how to apply directions given by the management team.

Time For A Change

Weeding out “hypocritical enforcement” (however subtle) and making sure that manager’s goals/expectations are properly aligned with policy statements isn’t always easy, but it does help everyone in the organization focus on a common goal.  While we’ve previously done whole webinars on goal alignment for fleet safety results, our focus today was on ways management teams could monitor driver performance and increase the accountability of both managers and drivers in regards to policy compliance.

Some parallels worth examiningWe believe this monitoring and enforcement effort actually begins with candidate screening practices (i.e. “setting up for success”).  Some organizations use screening tools such as DISC or other behavior/motivational/skills based testing to find “rules compliant” applicants.  Others use revised interview questions and tactics to evaluate a candidate’s attention to details, listening skills and so on.  This is also a good time to begin sending the messages that safety is important and valued within your organization.

Other monitoring and enforcement mechanisms were covered during the webinar and ranged from How’s My Driving hotlines to MVR profiles to identify drivers who may be at-risk of becoming involved in a collision or may have broken a local regulation.  Technology such as on-board recorders, GPS systems and even Camera-in-Cabin systems were introduced with their respective pros and cons.

The group had a special interest for cell phone enforcement technology, and incentive programs which might be used to help spur compliance.  We discussed the emerging technology solutions around cell phone control, including pitfalls and ways to defeat the systems.  We also discussed why incentive programs can start strong and end in ashes if not carefully managed each step of the way.

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Summary

Drivers need clear communication of expectations which are consistently reinforced by their own management team.  Simple rules, thoroughly monitored and fairly/evenly enforced using technology and administrative programs can make a vast difference in safety results obtained.   Motivating drivers to make safer decisions while behind the wheel is one of the cornerstones of a solid driver safety program.

Current SafetyFirst clients and their respective insurers will have access to the slides at our website shortly.  If you’re not currently affiliated with SafetyFirst and would like to discuss this topic or get a copy of the slides and support materials, please contact us at support (at) safetyfirst (dot) com (providing your contact information and how we can assist you) or call us toll free at 1-888-603-6987

SafetyFirst provides driver safety services to a network of more than 75 insurance providers and 3,800+ active fleet clients throughout North America.  Driver Education, Online Interactive Modules, Driver Coaching, Hotlines, GPS and more are available through our consultative team of transportation, insurance and IT specialists.

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Cars versus Trucks: who owns more of the safety obligation?

Commercial Carrier Journal prepared the following “info-graphic” to highlight the vast improvements that the transportation (trucking) industry have made over the years and to encourage the rest of us to step up our own safety efforts, too.

They’ve framed the issue in such a way as to confront the average motorist as being responsible for the lion’s share of crash activity.  How does that make you feel?  Do we all acknowledge that traffic safety results are everyone’s responsibility?  Do we acknowledge that on a miles-driven basis, truckers have a better track-record of performance than the media generally relates?  Is this attitude within the transportation industry healthy and helpful in encouraging further improvements or is it just finger pointing as a way to deflect any further criticism of their safety performance?

Take a look, below, and let us know what you think — you can provide constructive comments here, at our Linked In group, or at our Facebook page.  Thanks!


Brought to you by CCJ Magazine

Webinar: Out of Time? Out of Compliance? NOT out of Options!

To support our clients, USI and AIG, SafetyFirst led a webinar targeting smaller fleet operators (those with under 500 power units).

cropped-truck-traffic.jpgRegulated fleets all have to comply with the same set of ever-changing regulations; however, larger fleets can dedicate specialist resources to handling the paperwork and smaller fleets may be limited to a proverbial crew of three — “Me, Myself and I”.  Further, this team of “three” may have many other job duties beyond compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, too.

The focus of the webinar included the following learning points:

  • Identify the principal areas of driver safety regulation
  • Identify educational resources for managers
  • Identify how to use Federal resources to monitor their compliance status
  • Determine a mechanism to set a rational focus on key tactics.

While it’s beyond the scope of this blog article to cover all the points of the webinar, we’ll try to offer some of the highlights.

First, we made it a priority to share as many links to free, federal resources as possible — the goal of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to reduce crashes and injuries; therefore, they are stepping up to provide strategies and tactics that motor carriers can employ to that end result.  It all starts with the main web site — http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov

Motor Carriers Guide to ImprovingAnother resource was “A Motor Carrier’s Guide to Improving Highway Safety” which doesn’t serve as a replacement for the FMSCRs, but helps provide a “plain English” version of what motor carriers should be working on to be safe and compliant.  This can be downloaded from http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/eta/index.htm

We also encouraged the participants to regularly visit http://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov to get the latest tips and fact sheets on the CSA program.

The CSA program changes how FMCSA conducts audits and gives them flexibility to target more carriers for specific issues using different means of intervention (i.e. such as sending an inquiry on a highlighted issue by mail).  It doesn’t add to the regulations – it just addresses how FMCSA measures safety performance, evaluates the need to intervene, and then responds to potential problems.

CSA ToolkitsWe walked through the Bookend BASICs concept (covered on this blog site and in articles published by NATMI, et.al.) and how fleets can prioritize their response to keeping BASIC scores as low as possible.

The Safety Management Cycle, as a risk management model, was used in a practical exercise to demonstrate it’s utility to motor carriers.

We also highlighted the newest fact sheet releases, the motor carrier tool kit, and the driver tool kit which are found at the CSA site.

Summary

We dealt with a half-dozen specific questions from the audience (submitted through the web-ex environment) and there was some thoughtful discussion to wrap up the session.  We reminded the participants of the following ideas:

  • Compliance is about doing the “boring/tedious” stuff consistently
  • There are a lot of resources available to help you comply that cost nothing 
  • The FMCSA keeps data on your fleet to decide if they should intervene – you should monitor your scores at their site
  • If the FMCSA sends you a letter, call them and talk to them IMMEDIATELY. Tell them that Safety & Compliance are serious subjects and you want to improve your score.
  • Use the online resources to craft your response to them, and KEEP IT SIMPLE – no need to be fancy or commit to things you can’t afford or complete.
  • They will want to see that you did what you said you would. Not more or less. You need to put the plan into effect!

SafetyFirst is a fleet safety solutions provider, working through insurance carriers and directly with fleet clients throughout North America.

A copy of the slideshow will be distributed to participants in the webinar experience, and will be posted at our client-only (*log in required) web site.

The Most Costly WC Claim?

mvr crash sceneAs employers, we pay a heavy price for each and every injury — for the affected employee (driver); their immediate passengers (if any); and the liability associated with the injuries of third parties (anyone our vehicle hit).

National Safety Council publishes an annual statistics book called “Injury Facts”.  In this great document, I found the following quote:

The most costly lost-time workers’ compensation claims by cause of injury, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance’s (NCCI’s) data, are for those resulting from motor vehicle crashes. These injuries averaged $65,875 per workers’ compensation claim.

Isn’t that an amazing (if tragic) fact?  I’ve heard many safety managers dispute this by arguing that “this or that” type of claim is more severe, but they sit down and look at their own data and come to the same conclusion…..at the end of the year, when all claims have been tallied, motor vehicle collisions are the most tenacious.

I did a little more digging at the NCCI web site and found this quote from December 2012:

…motor vehicle accidents are more severe than the average workers compensation claim; they impact a diverse range of occupations other than just truckers; top diagnoses include neck injuries; duration is more than a third longer; subrogation is significant, with traffic accident claims comprising more than half of all claims with subrogation; and attorney involvement is greater.

Wow, that’s a lot to take in, too.  When setting up a safety plan for the year, or a budget, it’s important to remember to count workers compensation claim costs into your fleet safety budgeting, too.  It’s not just a matter of fixing dents and repainting fenders — there’s third party liability costs, litigation costs, lost supervisory time for extended investigations, depositions, protection of evidence, and much more.  Just that one phrase “duration [of the MVC-related workers comp claim] is more than a third longer [than other work comp claims]” impacts your lost time calculations for OSHA and affects your experience modifier for setting insurance rates.

At safety conferences, I often ask participants the following question…

All workplace injuries should be prevented; however, does “driver safety” take a keystone priority to your company’s “safety program” if you operate any type of commercial vehicles?

Safety professionals make the connection between vehicle liability and workers comp costs, but not all fleet managers have access to the data to build the case for a stronger safety effort in the “wheeled world“.

CoachingWhen I worked in the insurance world, we covered a large baking operation.  They made nine inch fruit pies for restaurants.  The workers comp claim totals far eclipsed the commercial vehicle claims at first glance.  However, we isolated all of the workers comp costs by employee type and location and re-stacked the data — we found that if we took injuries related to driving, and making deliveries, and placed them in the same bucket as the commercial vehicle crashes, we had a clearer case to make to top management that they needed to put most of their safety efforts into the fleet operations, not the manufacturing plant.  They followed our lead an loss costs for the entire operation plummeted.

The ANSI Z15 standard (published by the American Society of Safety Engineers – http://www.asse.org) outlines many practical steps toward saving lives of employees who drive as part of their job. One element of that program is to monitor driver behaviors to provide coaching and re-training if hazardous habits are detected.  This is an area where our firm has excelled over the years.  Pyramid 2011 for blog

So if your workers compensation costs are high, your insurance program rates keep rising, or your experience modifier is creeping up, consider re-evaluating the factors that are contributing to the issue.  Maybe a stronger and more effective focus on “wheels” can help moderate your WC costs!

SafetyFirst works with a network of more than 75 insurance providers and serves an active customer base of more than 3,800 fleets around North America.  Since our company start in 1998 we’ve touched and managed more than a million drivers to cut crashes and avoid injuries.  blog rainy traffic day 1

 

SafetyFirst Presents at NSC Utilities Division Spring Meeting

SafetyFirst was invited by the National Safety Council’s Utilities Division to make a presentation on the topic: “CSA, The Bookend BASICs, and Best Practices for Utility Fleet Safety“. This 90 minute presentation was well received by the division members, and we’re hopeful to participate again next year.Tucson AZ 1

The Division meeting was conducted in Tucson, AZ amid high winds and dust storms.  Despite the unusual weather the Division meeting covered a range of great safety topics from dealing with dog bite prevention to combustible dust, working from heights to dealing with prescription drug overdose and critical updates on regulations affecting utilities.

Representatives from many of our current clients participated in the meeting, and it was great to see them again (but away from their normal office environment).

To demonstrate our support of the group and their meeting, SafetyFirst sponsored the snacks and refreshments during breaks, and we raffled off a flat screen television which had been used to display our award winning, best in class remedial driver training modules (which clock in at under five minutes each in English and Spanish language versions).

The portions of the presentation dealing with driver selection, qualification and performance monitoring seemed to generate a lot of interest in our E-DriverFile program and it’s ability to pull diverse data from many traditional sources into a consolidated report about an individual driver. 

Further, the entire group worked together using the FMCSA’s Safety Management Cycle tosmc 1 actually construct a distracted driving policy from “soup to nuts” during the presentation.  These “hands-on” elements drew the audience into the discussion and provided practical take-aways for enhancing their existing programs.

The audience also found the new FMCSA BASIC support tools helpful, including the fact that how’s my driving hotlines (like our Safety Hotline – Driver Coaching program) are now recommended tools in the FMCSA toolkit for managing scores under CSA’s Unsafe Driving BASIC.

A copy of our presentation slides will be posted to our corporate website shortly, and a summary of the concept discussed in the presentation can be found here.

If you’re involved in electrical contracting or utility construction, you should investigate the National Safety Council’s Utility Division — they offer great support resources to help safety professionals manage the common risks associated with these particular exposures. 

http://www.nsc.org/get_involved/divisions/Pages/UtilitiesDivision.aspxutilities_rev2