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March 23, 2020

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Driver safety

Proactivity in driver safety

Nowadays, detailed health and safety policies come with the territory for anyone who drives for work. Companies will instruct their drivers in vehicle maintenance, driving style, designated breaks and lone working before sending them out onto the road. With hundreds or even of thousands of hours racked up every week by organisations with large fleets, this is a natural and necessary step. However, it’s also only a first one, says Air Products’ Mark Pawsey.

Mark PawseyThe fact is we’re all human. Lessons fade, training sessions are forgotten and safety signs on the wall soon become part of the background. This is why detailed driver safety policies can only ever be seen as a first step, not a complete strategy. To truly make them successful, we have to find ways to keep safety at the forefront of people’s minds.

Proactive management style from senior stakeholders sets expectations and creates a positive environment for success. Putting rules in place then sending drivers on their way after a safety briefing is unlikely to have a long-term effect. People will leave with the best of intentions, but the simple fact is that the job gets in the way. It’s easy to get distracted from health and safety processes when your primary focus is getting a job done right and on time. But, consistently monitoring and updating these policies draws drivers’ attention to them on a daily basis, reminding them of potential risks.

Keeping fleets in good condition is one area where the efforts of this proactivity should be focused. Vehicle maintenance, both by the company and the driver, has to be a constant consideration, with regular checks carried out both by drivers on the road and by the company on site. As important as driver awareness is, as in many jobs, in some ways they are only as good as the equipment they are provided with. The latest Department for Transport statistics found close to 1,400 accidents were caused by vehicle defects in 2018, with the majority of these coming from defective breaks or illegal tyres. With the amount of time company drivers spend on the road, this is all the more reason to keep the condition of vehicles closely monitored. Fleet maintenance should be at the heart of any driver safety strategy, and be the prerogative of both the driver and the wider company.

Digital vehicle maintenance

drivingWith vehicle maintenance in mind, new initiatives can help foster a necessarily proactive culture. At Air Products, we’re working on the implementation of a new digital vehicle maintenance system – part of the DVSA earned recognition scheme – which will transmit vehicle details to the traffic commissioner, eliminating the need for roadside checks and thereby reducing downtime. DVSA roadside checks can take approximately two and a half hours, with three or four stops per week across our fleet. Offering a route to reducing this lost time by regularly providing data gives a clear incentive to stay on top of vehicle maintenance.

Regularly looking closely at driver safety also boosts awareness of flaws in existing policies and a better understanding of how they can be improved. A close review system for accidents and incidents can show us patterns which in turn can highlight where changes need to be made.

Equally, they can show where policies are robust enough, but where we’re perhaps not communicating them effectively enough to staff. According to statistics released by DriveTech last year, less than a quarter of companies have regular driver training sessions. It is much more likely that many use spaced out courses covering everything related to safety policies, most of the detail of which are likely to fade to the back of people’s memories soon afterwards. Short, regular training sessions offering a review of a smaller number of points more regularly are much more likely to keep drivers mindful. Today, this doesn’t even require bringing drivers back to the office, taking them off the road. App-based training solutions can be completed by drivers during downtime from wherever work takes them, with sessions controlled and updated centrally. All it takes is the regular attention of the organisation to update and enforce the use of these platforms.

These advances in technology bring the dual benefits of improving health and safety through boosting efficiency. This improvement to efficiency is another important weapon in bringing more businesses on board with digital, perhaps more expensive, health and safety advancements. A company’s first priority has to be, and is, the safety of its employees. However, senior decision makers are also understandably focused on improving business performance. For those of us working in health and safety, a strong business case for the implementation of new technical initiative can only strengthen our argument.

A health and safety culture can’t be fostered through policy directives. It takes the proactive cooperation of both senior managers and those on the ground to truly change attitudes. Vehicle maintenance, driver training and clear safety policies are all areas we are aware of the importance of, but we are sometimes in danger of paying lip service to them rather than making sure our practices are as strong as possible. Continually reviewing and improving these practices and safety policies, in addition to using new, digital initiatives to streamline this process, will ensure health and safety always stays at the forefront of our minds.

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