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Safe Driving Practices Can Lower Work Comp Costs

GPS while driving

Millions of people drive as part of their job, but many non-professional drivers never receive driving safety training. It’s easy to think that common sense will keep workers safe. Use seatbelts, don’t text and drive, obey speed limits, don’t drink and drive, take a break if tired …we have all heard the mantras hundreds of time.

Yet, the data clearly shows that relying on common sense is not enough. According to Injury Facts, the average economic cost due to a crash was more than $1 million per death, and more than $78,000 per nonfatal disabling injury. Motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of occupational fatalities in the U.S. in 2012, accounting for 25% of deaths. Truck drivers accounted for 46% of these deaths.

Some of the major issues include:

Distracted driving

Distracted driving is not only texting, but also includes e-mailing, Web browsing, social media activity, phone calls, and even putting an address into a GPS. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), eighty percent of Americans mistakenly believe hands-free devices are safer than using handheld phones while driving. But more than 30 studies show hands-free devices don’t make drivers any safer because the brain remains distracted by the phone conversation.

Drowsy driving

According to a Safety + Health article, “Drowsy Driving & Worker Safety,” conservative estimates peg drowsy driving as a contributing factor in about 1,000 fatalities a year, while a report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that more than 6,000 drowsy-driving crashes a year result in at least one fatality.

A new employment landscape that means longer commutes contributes, as does the number of people working more than one job. Industries, such as oil and gas, where workers often endure extended shifts and make lengthy trips to and from worksites are vulnerable to drowsy driving and a study, based on analysis of Centers for Disease Control data by the company, Sleepy’s, found home health aides are the most sleep deprived group — getting an average of six hours and 57 minutes of sleep a night.

There are many resources including The National Sleep Foundation, “Workplace Driver Safety Toolkit” from The Stark County (OH) Sheriff’s Department and North American Fatigue Management Program are available.

Slips, trips or falls

Both professional and non-professional drivers are at a greater danger of suffering slips, trips, or falls because their work often involves hours of sitting while driving, followed by physical exertion in unfamiliar surroundings. A first step is to encourage workers to report hazardous conditions at customer sites.

In the trucking industry there has been an influx of inexperienced drivers as companies raise wages to meet growing demand and overcome a persistent driver shortage. The jobs are often more physical than people realize. Operational, educational and ergonomic steps can be taken to reduce the risk. Wellness and fitness programs aimed at the risks of driver injuries are also beneficial.

Seat belts

While years of educational campaigns and increased laws governing the use of seat belts have made the practice of buckling up the social norm, it’s estimated that 10 to 15 percent of drivers do not use seat belts. A recent study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that one in six long-haul truck drivers (LHTDs) does not wear seat belts.

Particularly interesting was the relationship this study found between truckers who reported never using a seat belt and other factors associated with unsafe driving. A requirement that drivers and all passengers use their seat belts is an important component of a comprehensive motor vehicle safety management program. Involving workers in development and implementation of these programs can increase their effectiveness.

Whether you manage a fleet of vehicles, a mobile sales force or other drivers, or provide home health services, by implementing a driver safety plan you can greatly reduce your exposure and the risk of injury to your workers.

To learn how UNICO Group and our work comp experts can help you improve your work comp program contact us today. We have proven outcomes with our clients to help them increase profitability.