No one wants a repeat of these national news-making incidents: the 2012 Hampstead, Ontario collision that killed 10 workers and the driver, and a 2007 Abbotsford, BC collision that killed three workers.
Whether you transport workers every day or every once in a while, the best way to protect them and your operation from catastrophic loss and liability is to have a policy and program in place.
They don’t have to be complicated. It just means making sure the people involved understand and do what’s expected. Briefly, have something on file, go over it with the people involved, review it with them periodically or as you update it, and keep records. Of everything. Here are some components to keep in mind.
In your policy, state the responsibilities of the owner/operator, driver(s) and workers being transported. For instance, among their responsibilities,
owners are accountable for maintaining the vehicle in safe operating condition, establishing capacity limits for the vehicle, ensuring the driver is qualified, setting maximum driving hours, monitoring and evaluating weather and road conditions to ensure it’s safe to be on the road, drafting codes of conduct for the driver and passengers, and ensuring the driver and passengers are trained accordingly.
drivers are accountable for maintaining their license, conducting pre-trip vehicle inspections, driving safely, reporting safety concerns, and ensuring workers follow prescribed codes of conduct while on the vehicle.
passengers are accountable for their conduct while on the vehicle, as set out by the owner (e.g., wearing seatbelts if provided, no standing while the vehicle is in motion unless it’s specially equipped, boarding and disembarking safely…).
Procedures identify the steps required to achieve a specific goal. Using “maintaining the vehicle in safe operating condition” as an example, possible procedures could include regularly scheduled servicing, periodic and pre-trip inspections, use of snow tires in the winter, etc.
Include tools such as forms and checklists that support the procedures. Instead of starting from scratch, look for what already exists. Check with manufacturers, suppliers, and your own personal network.
In the documentation, provide direction on how to achieve measurable outcomes without going into explicit detail. This will allow your procedures to evolve and adapt, and prevent unnecessary or outdated requirements becoming entrenched because “that’s what the procedures say.”
Keep these considerations in mind when drafting or reviewing your policy and procedures:
is the transportation schedule reasonable? Transportation times vary dramatically with weather, traffic and road conditions. If your schedule lacks flexibility, your driver may be tempted to stay on track by taking unsafe steps.
does your driver have a way to reach you in the event of a delay or breakdown? The solution could be as simple as supplying the driver with a cell phone.
could your driver benefit from refresher training? Over time we all adopt bad habits. Refresher training could eliminate potentially dangerous behaviour that your driver may not even be aware of.
are you using the right vehicle for the job? Depending on the vehicle, consistently having too few passengers could be as risky as too many.
From safety, compliance and liability perspectives, consider your policy and procedures as living documents that you can update as the need arises. This will help achieve your ultimate goal: ensuring that workers always arrive at their destinations safe and sound.