Safety in the workplace has emerged as one of the top issues facing business executives today, particularly those in the construction industry. Today, federal laws clearly require employers to provide a safe work environment for all employees, and 26 states have adopted their own workplace safety standards and enforcement policies.
What does that mean for you? Simply put, it means the days of blindly handing out keys to your employee drivers are over. There are a variety of issues to consider when examining your own workforce safety policies, but your primary concerns should be the safety of your drivers and the condition of their vehicles, both on the road and at the job site.
In fact, driver safety must be emphasized across the board. Not only should your company take aggressive steps to monitor potential safety issues, it should also make it the focus of new employee training. Statistics indicate that ongoing training reduces the number and severity of driver accidents over time.
Some of the safety practices construction executives can implement include:
- Collect and verify the motor vehicle records (MVRs) of your employees. Typically, about two-thirds of drivers have relatively clear driver histories. But about 25 percent will present some degree of risk on the road, and between 5 and 7 percent will be revealed as high-risk drivers with multiple infractions.
- Don’t skimp on the maintenance of your company’s vehicles. Having cars and trucks routinely serviced ensures they stay in good working order. This is important in the construction industry, where job sites generally expose vehicles to a much higher amount of dust and dirt. This requires shorter intervals between oil changes, the replacement of air and fuel filters, etc.
- Keeping complete and accurate files when you’re running a fleet of vehicles is critical. Hiring a fleet management provider to monitor fleet maintenance and ensure vehicles are inspected regularly, will benefit everyone’s safety.
- Read the factory guidelines for each company vehicle in your fleet and require your drivers to do the same. The safety guidelines listed in a vehicle’s manual are there for a reason. For example, most vehicle specifications outline the load that vehicle safely can carry. Your employees may think they can push those limits and occasionally overload a work vehicle, for example. But an unbalanced load is an unsafe load.
- Have a system in place to assign consequences to unsafe drivers in your workforce. Analyze your drivers and look for repeat offenders. Implementing consequences for unsafe driving protects employees, other drivers and your company – and it levels the playing field. A top sales executive with an unsafe driving record is just as liable for his or her actions as the new construction foreman or the summer intern.
- Implement a point assignment program that ranks your drivers according to the severity of previous motor vehicle infractions. After conducting an MVR search, assign points to each infraction to determine that driver’s overall risk.
- Provide drivers with training opportunities so that poor driving behavior can be addressed and changed immediately and good behavior can be rewarded.
Partner With a Fleet Manager
As your construction company grows, so will your vehicle fleet. Consider partnering with a fleet management company to assist with related issues – and possibly save money and manpower in the long run. Fleet management companies have a wide array of tools at their disposal that improve driver safety, assist with vehicle upkeep and help their client’s bottom line.
As specific fleet issues arise, fleet management companies also have direct access to vendors to secure the assistance required to solve these problems. They also can administer driver safety programs; arrange for the delivery of driver safety kits; and help develop a fleet management policy that will hold your entire workforce responsible for driver safety and vehicle maintenance.
Four Tips for Running an Effective Fleet Safety Program:
- Do Your Homework – Know your drivers and evaluate their risk behind the wheel.
- Implement a Safety Policy – Set guidelines for acceptable and unacceptable driving behavior.
- Enforce Your Policy – From the top down, drivers must be held accountable.
- Be Proactive – Address poor driving behavior with training opportunities and reward good driving habits that save your company money.
Construction sites are notorious for the hazards they pose to cars and trucks. Potential issues to keep in mind include:
- Construction companies frequently push their vehicles way beyond their limits. Ignoring routine maintenance specifications will ultimately cost more in the long run and potentially lead to safety issues for which your company could be held liable.
- Construction vehicles typically spend a great deal of time idling, which shortens the length of time that should be allowed between maintenance cycles.
- Discourage parking behind heavy equipment, as the operator may not see smaller vehicles.
- If employees typically carry large loads, make certain those loads are properly secured, especially when traveling over difficult terrain.
- The ground surrounding excavation holes may be unstable. Workers should not park near these sites. If a vehicle becomes stuck near these areas, workers should use proper towing procedures rather than resort to rocking the vehicle in an attempt to dislodge it. Doing so could cause the transmission to overheat, which could ruin it.
- Construction sites are covered with loose debris. Driving over small items may puncture tires. Use caution in driving through these areas and consider purchasing the heaviest ply tires you can fit on a vehicle.
- Since construction terrain often is muddy, an all-terrain tire should be used and replaced at a higher tread reading than normal for maximum traction.
- Avoid turning on steep terrain, as vehicles may tip over.
- Driving repeatedly through mud and water requires more frequent transmission service.
- Additionally these conditions can cause brakes to become wet or coated with mud, so make sure your vehicle can make a full and proper stop before pulling onto a main road.
- Depending on a vehicle’s typical load, drivers may need additional safety requirements such as headache racks/screens. These prevent cargo from breaking through the rear window and causing harm to the vehicle operator.
- Construction vehicles typically are equipped with strobe lights, hydraulic cranes and buckets, auxiliary power supplies, generators and other equipment that require more frequent repair and maintenance, so plan accordingly.
Other Useful Links
U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
Safety and Health Topics / Construction - Motor Vehicle Safety Information
Construction Management Association of America
Construction Management Safety Page