Distracted driving continues to be a problem on the highways, but researchers are investigating how distraction on the job (away from the vehicle) is affecting injury rates and contributing to safety problems in other types of environments.
The National Safety Council recently ran an article on this phenomenon titled “Distracted on the job — Identifying and Minimizing Worker Distractions can help reduce injuries” A link to the full article is HERE.
The “key points” made by the article include:
- Deadlines and pressure to meet production goals are some of the biggest on-the-job distractions, experts say.
- Allowing short breaks and empowering workers to speak up when they observe distractions can help mitigate the problem.
- Although employees may pay more attention to the job at hand and are able to better minimize distractions shortly after a near miss or a workplace incident, experts warn this will eventually fade.
Complacency is one of the culprits that can drive up injury rates, and the article covers tips to combat these distractions through breaks and other means.
The Wall Street Journal also produced a short video covering office distraction leading to lost productivity. While the discussion is mainly about the office environment, the issues raised could affect people in a wide range of jobs and positions. (http://on.wsj.com/VS70iN)
This month’s edition of Work Truck Magazine has a great article on key factors to consider when upfitting cargo vans for your operation. Here is a link to the full article: http://worktruck.epubxp.com/issue/121882/19.
What caught my eye was the fact that out of seven specific recommendations four were safety related. These factors addressed both ergonomic considerations (making it easy for drivers to access the inventory with as little stress, strain and repetitive motion at odd angles as possible) and driving safety (concerns about the partition between the operators cabin and the cargo area).
In years gone by, many articles like this one would have only focused on productivity or capacity, but there’s been an appropriate shift in emphasis over the decades to integrate safety with operations so that efficiency gains are not offset by injuries.
I recommend Work Truck Magazine to operators of light and medium duty fleets since the online and print editions are FREE to qualifying subscribers and each month’s edition has at least one or two articles of note from a safety standpoint. To learn more about this periodical, check out their home page at http://www.worktruckonline.com/
As 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“.
When 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.
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.