Beyond the cab

For light- and medium-duty fleets, workplace safety goes well beyond what happens inside the truck cab. Safety is a concern for mechanics, warehouse employees, and fleet managers, too. Here's why workplace safety is such a big deal: Over 5,300 people lost their lives on the job in 2001, and 3.9 million suffered disabling injuries. According to the National Safety Council, the cost was a staggering

For light- and medium-duty fleets, workplace safety goes well beyond what happens inside the truck cab. Safety is a concern for mechanics, warehouse employees, and fleet managers, too.

Here's why workplace safety is such a big deal: Over 5,300 people lost their lives on the job in 2001, and 3.9 million suffered disabling injuries. According to the National Safety Council, the cost was a staggering $132.1 billion.

But it doesn't have to be like this. I recently talked to Dixie Brock, national warehouse safety manager for APL Logistics, about workplace safety issues and how they impact fleets. For starters, she says fleets have to make sure their “safety vision” encompasses all employees, not just drivers. Even relatively simple tasks such as operating forklifts or loading and unloading trucks can be fraught with risks.

“Improving safety across the entire company — in the warehouse, in the yard, and on the highway — can save you money, improve productivity, and preserve the quality of life for your workers,” says Brock.

It's important to understand the impact of injuries, she points out, because it's not limited to workman's compensation payments and time away from the job. “Injuries change a person's life forever — and not just at work,” Brock explains. “Injuries affect their job, home life, vacation, everything.…If you're in physical pain all the time, everything you do is compromised.”

Brock thinks fleet managers should focus on several areas. First, make sure you are compliance with regulations across the board. OSHA is a good place to start, since its rules cover almost all workplace scenarios outside of the truck cab.

Brock believes that once your operation is in complete compliance with federal and local regs, it's important to start preventing accidents before they happen.

To do that, Brock says fleets have to focus on four things: corrective action, hazard recognition, training and education, and accountability.

Corrective action refers to the steps you take to ensure that a specific accident won't happen again, Brock explains. “Hazard recognition comes into play after you have performed corrective actions; it allows you to see potential accident situations before they happen. This allows you to become proactive instead of reactive, stopping accidents before they occur and cost you time and money.”

Brock says training and education are critical to making sure employees understand which procedures are safe and which are not. The training process can also help identify who understands why safety is important and who doesn't. “It's an opportunity to explain to them why safety matters and how it can affect their lives outside of work as well, which can help them adopt safer work behavior,” she says.

Finally, there's accountability — for what goes right as well as what goes wrong. “Accountability is not just about penalizing supervisors and employees for violating the safe work procedures you establish,” Brock emphasizes. “It's also about rewarding them for creating a safer environment. This can be a huge motivating factor in adopting safer work habits.”

But for safety to really pay off for a fleet, everyone must adhere to the same philosophy — from the CEO and managers to the dockworkers and drivers.

“Everyone must have the same understanding of safety and everyone must be held accountable for any safety procedures that are adopted,” she says. “Safety can't be just a top-down belief; it has to flow from the bottom-up as well. If everyone works together towards the same goal, accidents can be stopped before they happen.”

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