Driving is an activity many of us do every day. But it comes with many risks - at work and off the clock - that are often overlooked.
"Most of us drive so often and have been driving for so long, complacency takes over," says Pamela Patry, WSPS Health and Safety Consultant. Every time you get in the driver's seat of a vehicle -whether it's a car, truck, forklift, or mobile crane-you need to be aware of the hazards in order to protect yourself and others. And when you have employees who drive for work, the employer must go one step further.
We all know distracted and impaired driving are dangerous. As an employer, you need to do more than simply acknowledge these hazards. You need to have an explicit policy in place, and you need to enforce it," says Pamela.
Driving for work is when an employee must drive to a location other than the one where they normally work, to complete their assigned tasks (the common commute to and from work is generally not considered part of the workday). It also includes driving mobile equipment, such as power elevated lifts, snowmobiles, golf carts, and mobile cranes.
"The hazards related to driving mobile equipment are the same hazards you see on roads," explains Pamela, which are impaired driving, distracted driving, working alone, and mechanical failures. As an employer, you should have policies and safe work procedures in place to address each of these hazards.
Protect your employees: What to include in your policy
- Fit for duty is an important concept to include in any health and safety policy related to driving a vehicle or operating equipment. Alcohol and cannabis use are the obvious things to look out for when it comes to impaired driving. However, fatigue is a significant cause as well. "As a supervisor, build a relationship with your employees, know their behaviours, so that you know when something doesn't seem right," advises Pamela. As with all policies, it's important to include the disciplinary consequences of driving or operating equipment while impaired at work.
- When a new hire is going to drive as part of their job, it's common to get a driver's abstract, a copy of their license, and proof of insurance. However, it's much less common to ask for those items again at a later date to ensure nothing has changed. It's a good idea to include in your policy that employees must provide an abstract and license annually, for example, or every three years.
- Mobile devices are usually the focus when discussing distracted driving. Most workplaces have clear policies stating that employees cannot use mobile devices while driving or operating equipment, but make sure your policy addresses the organization's position on hands-free use as well. "Some organizations don't allow phone calls while driving at all, even if the driver is using Bluetooth", says Pamela. The same can be said for voice-to-text features. For equipment operators, many organizations have a zero-tolerance, no-phone policy.
- If your employees drive for work, you need to know that their vehicles are mechanically sound. The best way to do that is to require employees to complete a pre-trip inspection. A daily or weekly checklist that ensures employees check things such as gas levels, wiper functionality, brakes, headlights, etc. can go a long way towards avoiding a mechanical failure on the road. Having this documentation also shows the employer's due diligence.
- Pedestrian safety plans are a must when your business involves warehousing and distribution, so make sure they are part of your safety policy and procedures. When you have forklifts and trucks operating in areas where people are working, it poses a significant hazard.
- Employees who travel for work often do it alone. According to Pamela, a good working alone policy includes a regular check-in plan between the employee and their supervisor, a planned route that is clearly communicated to the supervisor, and a back-up route. "You never know when you'll encounter a road closure, so it’s good to have a back-up route," says Pamela. "Your policy should also require a road-side emergency kit."
How WSPS Can Help
Connect with a consultant to find out more about these services from WSPS' Pedestrian Safety and Traffic Management specialists
The Effective Supervisor (2 days, in-person or virtual)
Safety Connection: Traffic Management and Pedestrian Safety - September 13 (online)
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.