Driving for work is one of the riskiest activities an employee will undertake, be it to and from a job site or within the job site proper. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of fatalities as a result of occupational transportation incidents for 2017 was 2,077, which was 40 percent of the 5,147 annual number of fatalities from occupational injuries in 2017. Every 12 minutes someone dies in a motor vehicle crash, every 10 seconds an injury occurs and every 5 seconds a crash occurs. Many of these incidents occur during the commute to and from work or during the workday on a job site. The following provides factors to consider when driving public roads during a commute to/from a job site, and when driving within an off-highway job site (not open to public traffic).
DRIVING TO/FROM A JOB SITE
To reduce the number of occupational transportation incidents on public roads/highways, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has provided the following reminders for work-related safe driving practices:
- Use a seat belt at all times – driver and passenger(s). Seat belts are the single most effective means of reducing deaths and serious injuries in traffic crashes. As the most effective safety device in vehicles, they save nearly 12,000 lives and prevent 325,000 serious injuries in America each year.
- Be well-rested before driving. Fatigued or drowsy driving may be involved in more than 100,000 crashes each year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths. However, these numbers likely represent only the tip of the iceberg since these crashes are seriously under-reported.
- Avoid taking medications that make you drowsy.
- Set a realistic goal for the number of miles that you can drive safely each day.
- If you are impaired by alcohol or any drug, do not drive. Alcohol use is involved in 40 percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes, representing an average of one alcohol-related fatality every 30 minutes. It is estimated that three in every 10 Americans will be involved in an impaired driving-related crash some time in their life. Alcohol, certain prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and illegal drugs can all affect a person's ability to drive safely due to decreased alertness, concentration, coordination and reaction time. Alcohol is a contributing factor in 39 percent of all work-related traffic crashes.
- Driving requires your full attention. Avoid distractions, such as adjusting the radio or other controls, eating or drinking, and talking on the phone. Distracted driving is a factor in 25 to 30 percent of all traffic crashes (that's 4,000 or more crashes a day).
- Continually search the roadway to be alert to situations requiring quick action.
- Stop about every two hours for a break. Get out of the vehicle to stretch, take a walk, and get refreshed.
Avoid Aggressive Driving
- Keep your cool in traffic!
- Be patient and courteous to other drivers.
- Do not take other drivers’ actions personally.
- Reduce your stress by planning your route ahead of time (bring the maps and directions or program your route on your vehicle if available), allowing plenty of travel time, and avoiding crowded roadways and busy driving times.
To assist in planning a trip to or from a job site, a “Journey Management Plan” or similar document can be prepared before the trip. This Plan can be a simple one- or two-page checklist that outlines factors to consider before embarking on the trip. First, one should consider whether to make the trip at all if other alternatives to personal travel are available (i.e., public transportation, phone call, video conference, etc.). If one decides that driving still is the best option, factors to consider are whether:
The driver is physically and mentally prepared
- not under the influence of drugs/alcohol/prescription medications
- enough trip time is allotted to stop and stretch
- water and snacks are available
The vehicle to be driven is prepared for use and in good working order
- Properly inflated tires with sufficient tread, all lights and turn signals properly work, and all fluid levels checked and full
- equipped for the weather and road conditions to be encountered
- all controls (seat, headrest, mirrors, steering wheel) are adjusted for the driver
- a cell phone, emergency kit, driver’s license, and proof of insurance are available
A Journey Management Plan is in place
- planned primary and alternate routes identified
- local traffic and road conditions have been checked
- employer/co-workers know the planned and alternate routes
If any of these factors are not appropriately considered and addressed before the trip begins, the trip should be rescheduled (if possible) until a time after these factors have been adequately addressed.
Not only is driver safety important when travelling on public roads to and from a job site, but it is just as important within the boundaries of private job sites, especially construction sites where vehicles and heavy machinery may be routinely and frequently driven (tank trucks, haulers, loaders, dozers, cranes, etc.). OSHA standards for the safety of driving motorized vehicles and mechanized equipment on construction sites are outlined in 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1926 Subpart O.
Depending on the frequency of travel within a job site and the type(s) of activities that are occurring, a document such as a “Traffic Management Plan” may be prepared before the start of the project to outline a plan to be followed during work activities as a means of reducing the potential for incidents. Also, if two or more potentially conflicting activities are to be conducted in the same location at the same time, a “Simultaneous Operations (SIMOPS) Plan” should be prepared, in which information in a “Traffic Management Plan” should be included.
In the “Traffic Management Plan”, designated traffic routes should be established for the various vehicles and equipment (including maps and diagrams showing the proposed traffic routes), and means of traffic control should be summarized (signs, designated traffic control person(s), means of communication, speed limits, etc.). Other information may include:
- Hours of operation on the job site,
- The placement and use of portable lighting for work occurring at night (if needed),
- Weight limits of bridges on the site that may be traversed and public roads that may be crossed by the various vehicles and heavy equipment (including the anticipated weights of vehicles and heavy equipment, both empty and fully loaded),
- Name, affiliation, and phone number(s) of the appropriate personnel to contact in case of an incident and/or an emergency,
- Contact information for the local emergency departments (fire, police/sheriff, ambulance, hospital)
OSHA requirements per 29 CFR 1926 Subpart O and other good practices to outline in a “Traffic Management Plan” include:
- All vehicles should have a service brake system, an emergency brake system, and a parking brake system, and should be maintained in operable condition (29 CFR 1926.601(b)(1)),
- All vehicles in use should be equipped with at least two headlights and two taillights in operable condition whenever visibility conditions warrant additional light (29 CFR 1926.601(b)(2)(i)),
- All vehicles should have brake lights in operable condition, regardless of light conditions (29 CFR 1926.601(b)(2)(ii)),
- All vehicles should be equipped with an adequate audible warning device at the operator’s station and in an operable condition (29 CFR 1926.601(b)(3)),
- Headlights of all vehicles/heavy machinery should always be on when operating on the site to increase visibility to other site personnel,
- Seat belts should always be worn by site personnel when operating vehicles/heavy machinery,
- Observe all speed limits posted throughout the site,
- No use of cell phones, radios, or walkie talkies while the vehicle/heavy machinery is in motion,
- Operators of various vehicles and heavy machinery should be trained and “competent” on the vehicle(s)/heavy machinery in which they will operate,
- All vehicles with cabs shall be equipped with windshields and powered wipers. Cracked and broken glass shall be replaced. Vehicles operating in areas or under conditions that cause fogging or frosting of the windshields shall be equipped with operable defogging or defrosting devices (29 CFR 1926.601(b)(5)), and
- Per 29 CFR 1926.601(b)(14), all vehicles in use shall be checked at the beginning of each shift to assure that the following parts, equipment, and accessories are in safe operating condition and free of apparent damage that could cause failure while in use: service brakes, including trailer brake connections; parking system (hand brake); emergency stopping system (brakes); tires; horn; steering mechanism; coupling devices; seat belts; operating controls; and safety devices. All defects shall be corrected before the vehicle is placed in service. These requirements also apply to equipment such as head and brake lights, reflectors, windshield wipers, defrosters, fire extinguishers, etc., where such equipment is necessary. Also, all fluid levels (engine oil, coolant, windshield washer) should be checked and filled as necessary at the start of each shift.