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Driver Safety

Stay Safe While Driving

  1. Refrain from using your cell phone while driving, even hands-free.

  2. Put your cell phone on silent or put it in the glovebox to avoid temptation.

  3. Pull over and put your vehicle in park if you must make a call.

  4. Change your voicemail message to say you are unavailable when driving but will return any calls once you’ve reached your destination.

  5. Safety belts are one of the most effective devices in your vehicle. Always wear it when you are driving and ensure your passengers are properly buckled up also.

  6. Aggressive driving behaviors include speeding, making frequent unnecessary lane changes, tailgating, and running lights/stop signs. These behaviors create unsafe situations for you and other drivers and can lead to road rage.

  7. Keep your emotions in check and don’t take your frustrations out on other drivers.

  8. Plan ahead to allow enough time for delays.

  9. Focus on your driving: avoid eating, drinking, phones, changing radio stations, adjusting GPS settings, grooming, or doing work while driving.

  10. Do not tailgate.  Allow at least 3 seconds distance between you and vehicles you are following.

  11. Use your horn sparingly.

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Preventing Backing Collisions

National statistics indicate that backing collisions account for about one-quarter of all collisions. OMAG’s claims records support this fact in regard to our members’ claims. The growing number of rear-vision camera systems should decrease the occurrence of these collisions in the future but do not rely only on your camera system. Utilizing “old school” methods along with a rear-vision camera will increase your hazard awareness. Backing will always carry its own set of risks. The following is a list of tips aimed at preventing backing collisions:

  1. Get to know a vehicle’s blind spots. Mirrors can never give the whole picture when backing.

  2. Think in advance. Don’t put yourself in unnecessary backing situations.

  3. Park defensively. Choose easy-exit parking spaces that don’t crowd neighboring vehicles. Park in the center of your parking space.

  4. Take extra precautionary measures when parking in an alley. Remember to think ahead. If the alley doesn’t permit driving all the way through, back into the alley space. That way you can drive forward to pull into the street.

  5. Perform a walk-around. Walking around your vehicle gives you a first-hand view of the backing area and will alert you to limitations or hazards. Watch for children, muddy areas, poles, pipes, or other obstacles you could hit.

  6. Know the clearances. When performing a walk-around check for obstructions, low hanging trees, wires, or canopies.

  7. Every backing situation is new and different. You may back out of the same spot day after day, but don’t allow yourself to get complacent and relax. Be watchful every time for changes and new obstacles.

  8. Use a spotter. Don’t be afraid to ask for someone’s help when backing. Use hand signals you’ve both agreed on. Don’t have the spotter walking backwards or standing directly behind your vehicle while giving you instructions.

  9. Don’t delay after doing your walk-around. Get back in your vehicle and start backing within a few seconds. This will allow very little time for people or new obstacles to change behind your vehicle.

  10. Ensure your mirrors are clean and properly adjusted to give you the widest possible view.

  11. Tap the horn twice prior to backing to alert others in the area.

  12. Crack your driver’s window so you can hear any warnings, such as a car horn. Stop immediately if you hear a warning.

  13. Keep your backing distance to a minimum and go slow while covering your brake.

  14. If you are unsure of the clearance around and above your vehicle, get out and look. Check behind, both sides, and above your vehicle before proceeding.

Being proactive and careful while backing can save lives, property damage, and time for all in the long run.

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Why Backing into Parking Spaces is a Good Risk Management Practice

Why Backing into Parking Spaces is a Good Risk Management Practice

For some time, there has been a debate whether it is safer to back into a parking space in the workplace. I believe it is a good risk management practice. Let me tell you why.

Roughly one in seven vehicle incidents occurs in parking lots. Therefore, it is a good area to focus on to reduce accidents. How employees park when they arrive at work can affect their day-to-day safety behavior. Let’s look at how backing into a parking space might make a person more safety conscious.

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March 2018 Risk & Safety Newsletter

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Vehicle Backing Safety

One out of every four vehicle accidents can be blamed on poor backing skills, according to the National Safety Council. Approximately 500 people die and 15,000 are injured due to backing accidents each year. Using safe vehicle backing tips can help prevent you or your employees from experiencing the trauma and expense of a backing accident.

  • Think ahead. Drivers should not put themselves in an unnecessary backing situation.

  • Park defensively. Drivers choose an easy-exit parking space, like pull-through or where no one else is parked. Don’t crowd neighboring vehicles; be sure to park your vehicle in the middle of your space.

  • Know your vehicle’s blind spots. Drivers need to remember that mirrors never give the whole picture while backing. In a medium-sized truck, blind spots can extend up to 16 feet in front and 160 feet behind the vehicle.

  • Do a walk-around. Before entering your vehicle do a walk-around. This gives you a firsthand view of the backing area and any limitations. You can check for children, signs, poles, drop-offs, buildings, and other things you might hit if not attentive in your backing.

  • Know your clearances. While performing your walk-around also check for obstructions, low hanging eaves and tree limbs, wires, and any other potential clearance-related obstacles.

  • Alley parking is a special circumstance. If an alley doesn’t permit driving all the way through or room to turn around, you should back into it (if ordinances permit) so when leaving you can pull forward into the street rather than backing blindly out into the street.

  • Use a spotter. Have another person help when backing. The driver and spotter should use hand signals instead of verbal instructions. This may take some practice so that you understand each other’s signals. Do not allow the spotter to be positioned directly behind your vehicle or walk backwards behind you while giving instructions. They should be off to the driver’s side where you can see them in your side mirror.

  • Every backing situation is new and different. Sometimes a driver visits the same location several times a day. The driver should be watchful each visit for changes and new obstacles (new vehicles, trash cans, people, etc.)

  • Drivers sometimes must spot for themselves. They need to return to the vehicle and start backing within a few seconds after finishing their walk-around. This will allow very little time for people, cars, or other obstacles to change the backup conditions. Backing without a spotter should only take place after the driver has learned as much as possible about the area they are backing into.

Long-Term Solutions to Safe Backing:

  • Install rear-vision camera systems in vehicles to eliminate rear blind spots. Investing in a rear-vision camera system for vehicles can put drivers in full visual control of the rear of a vehicle.

  • No amount of forward-driving experience can help a driver with backing a truck or other vehicles. All drivers need practice, practice, practice in safe surroundings until they become familiar with the way the vehicle backs up compared to the direction the steering wheel is turned. Supervisors need to test and approve drivers’ skills before allowing them on the streets.

  • Create and support a company-wide training program. The program should include a driver’s course to teach and review backing techniques, as well as covering equipment usage, hand signals, dangers to avoid, and other risk-lowering topics. OMAG has partnered with OSU/OKC’s Precision Driving School to provide training to municipal drivers free of charge. Contact OMAG Risk Management Services to get more details on how to sign up.

With so many potential injuries, loss of property and vehicular liability claims isn’t it worth it to take some time to evaluate your vehicle backing skill?

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What is Distracted Driving at Work?

Distracted driving occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off your primary task, which is driving safely. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash.

Workers in many industries and occupations spend part of their workday on the road. Drivers at work are more likely to be in a hurry to reach their destination, think about a work procedure, be tired, or use their cell phone while driving.

The following are some options both employers and employees can implement to reduce distracted driving accidents:

Employers: Use the following recommendations to prevent distracted driving.

  • Ban texting and hand-held phone use while driving a city vehicle, and apply the same rules to use of a city-issued phone while driving a personal vehicle.

  • Consider banning the use of hands-free phones.

  • Require workers to pull over in a safe location if they must text, make a call, or look up directions.

  • Prepare workers before implementing these policies by communicating:

  • How distracted driving puts them at risk of a crash

  • That driving requires their full attention while they are on the road

  • What they need to do to comply with your company’s policies

  • What action you will take if they do not follow these policies

  • Consider having workers acknowledge that they have read and understand these policies.

  • Provide workers with information to help them talk to their family about distracted driving.

Employees: Take the following actions to stay focused behind the wheel.

  • Do not text or use a hand-held phone while driving. Further, avoid using hands-free phones as much as possible – even if your employer allows them.

  • Pull over in a safe location if you must text or make a call.

  • Make necessary adjustments (e.g., adjust controls, program directions) to your car before your drive.

  • Do not reach to pick up items from the floor, open the glove box, or try to catch falling objects in the vehicle.

  • Avoid emotional conversations with passengers, or pull over in a safe location to continue the conversation. For normal conversation, passengers in the vehicle can often help lower crash risk for adult drivers.

  • Focus on the driving environment — the vehicles around you, pedestrians, cyclists, and objects or events that may mean you need to act quickly to control or stop your vehicle.

Take the time to share these ideas and opportunities to reduce distracted driving losses with your employees. Help keep them safe and your municipality free from the hassles of distracted driving incidents.

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Work-Related Winter Safety Tips

Preventing Slips on Snow and Ice

To prevent slips, trips, and falls, employers should clear walking surfaces of snow and ice, and spread deicer, as quickly as possible after a winter storm. In addition, the following precautions will help reduce the likelihood of injuries:

  • Wear proper footwear when walking on snow or ice is unavoidable because it is especially treacherous. A pair of insulated and water-resistant boots with good rubber treads is a must for walking during or after a winter storm. Keeping a pair of rubber over-shoes with good treads which fit over your street shoes is a good idea during the winter months.

  • Take short steps and walk at a slower pace so you can react quickly to a change in traction when walking on an icy or snow-covered walkway. Test your footing before committing your whole weight in a step. Be mindful of “black ice” (a thin sheet of ice on a surface that may not be visible to the naked eye).

  • Use your door or the roof of your vehicle when getting in and out. Avoid parking on ice if possible.

Winter Driving

Although employers cannot control roadway conditions, they can promote safe driving behavior by ensuring workers: recognize the hazards of winter weather driving, for example, driving on snow/ice covered roads; are properly trained for driving in winter weather conditions, and are licensed (as applicable) for the vehicles they operate. Drive safely during the winter:

  • Slow down, take your time, leave earlier than normal

  • Begin slowing at intersections earlier than normal

  • Avoid stopping or parking on hills or inclines

  • Take corners slower than normal

  • Turn into skids and avoid using the brake

  • Give plenty of space between your vehicle and others and stop where you can completely see the tires of the vehicle in front of you at stop signs/stop lights

Employers should set and enforce driver safety policies. Employers should also implement an effective maintenance program for all vehicles and mechanized equipment that workers are required to operate. Crashes can be avoided. Employers should ensure properly trained workers inspect the following vehicle systems to determine if they are working properly:

  • Brakes: Brakes should provide even and balanced braking. Also check that brake fluid is at the proper level.

  • Cooling System: Ensure a proper mixture of 50/50 antifreeze and water in the cooling system at the proper level.

  • Electrical System: Check the ignition system and make sure that the battery is fully charged and that the connections are clean. Check that the alternator belt is in good condition with proper tension.

  • Engine: Inspect all engine systems.

  • Exhaust System: Check exhaust for leaks and that all clamps and hangers are snug.

  • Tires: Check for proper tread depth and no signs of damage or uneven wear. Check for proper tire inflation.

  • Oil: Check that oil is at the proper level.

  • Visibility Systems: Inspect all exterior lights, defrosters (windshield and rear window), and wipers. Install winter windshield wipers.

An emergency kit with the following items is recommended in vehicles:

  • Cellphone or two-way radio

  • Windshield ice scraper

  • Snowbrush

  • Flashlight with extra batteries

  • Shovel

  • Tow chain

  • Traction aids (bag of sand or cat litter)

  • Emergency flares

  • Jumper cables

  • Snacks

  • Water

  • Roadmaps

  • Blankets, change of clothes

Winter Work Zone Traffic Safety
Workers being struck by vehicles or mobile equipment lead to many work zone fatalities or injuries annually. Drivers may skid or lose control of their vehicles more easily when driving on snow and/or ice-covered roads. It is, therefore, important to properly set up work zones with the traffic controls identified by signs, cones, barrels, and barriers to protect workers. Workers exposed to vehicular traffic should wear the appropriate high visibility vest at all times so that they are visible to motorists. Workers should also remain vigilant regarding their surroundings while working in work zones. Pay attention to what is going on around you and where you are stepping.  Identify potential safety hazards and correct or avoid them.

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Put an End to Backing Accidents

According to the National Safety Council, one out of four vehicle accidents can be blamed on poor backing techniques.  Backing accidents cause 500 deaths and 15,000 injuries per year in the United States.  The use of safe vehicle backing techniques by municipal personnel can help reduced accidents while on the job.

  • Blind Spots:  Know where they are.  In a medium-sized truck, blind spots can extend up to 16 ft in front and 160 ft behind a vehicle. Drivers need to remember that mirrors can never give the whole picture while backing. In the photo below, the blind spot to the rear of the fire truck is 247 ft.

In this photo, the blind spot to the rear of the fire truck is 247 ft.
  • Think in advance: Don’t back your vehicle unless you must.  Plan before you park.  If possible park along a curb, in an alley, at the gas pump or pull through a park spot.

  • Back Slowly:  Back your vehicle at less than 1 mph.  If you do strike an object, driving slowly will limit damages.

  • Park Defensively:  Don’t park near high traffic areas, for example at the entries of businesses; these areas are where you are most likely to be involved in an accident.

  • First-Pull-Forward:  Back into your parking spot upon arrival.  If you have parked forward in a parking space, at the time of departure by the time you shut the door and click your seat belt a car or group of people could now be in your backing path.

  • Use Correct Backing Path:  Only back up if you must.  If you do back up, use the correct backing path: (listed from least hazardous to most hazardous) straight backing, backing using the driver's mirror (swinging to the left), backing using the passenger mirror (swinging to the right).

  • When backing, be cautious of front end swing:  When driving forward the rear wheels follow the steering axle; when backing, the front of the vehicle will swing wider than the rear axle.  This swinging could result in the vehicle striking vehicles or other objects.

In the photos above, if the sanitation truck driver were to back up and swing right, the truck would strike the silver Camaro sitting next to it.  You can see in the third photo that the car is not visible to the driver in the side-view mirror.

  • Use backing aides:  At a minimum most vehicles have a rear-view mirror and side mirrors.  Some vehicles have additional mirrors, backing sensors and/or backing cameras.  Don’t focus on just mirrors or a backing camera, use all of the tools at your disposal to back safely. 

  • Do a walk around:  Walking around a vehicle gives a driver a firsthand view of the backing area and any limitations.  They can check for children, soft or muddy areas, potholes and other dangers.  In addition, they can also check for obstructions, low-hanging trees and wires, and other potential clearance-related hazards.

  • Every backing situation is new and different:  Sometimes a driver visits the same location several times a day and should be watchful each visit for changes and any new obstacles.

  • Use a spotter:  Drivers should use another person to help them when backing.  The driver and spotter should use hand signals instead of verbal ones.  Before using a spotter, agree on the hand signals to be used prior to backing.  If you get a signal you don’t understand, stop and don’t continue until you understand the information the spotter is giving you.  In addition, don’t have spotters walking backward while giving signals and don't place them in a caught-in-between hazardous situation (i.e. a backing sanitation truck and dumpster, or backing truck and a wall).

Long-Term Solutions to Safe Backing

  • Implementing backing policies/procedures can help reduce accidents and injuries. These are some considerations for backing policies:

    • Limit backing to a specified distance: Do not back more than 200 ft. If you must back further, pull forward to get in a better position to shorten your backing path.

    • First-Movement-Forward: Require all vehicles to back into parking spots upon arrival.

    • Require spotters for vehicles with poor driver visibility, such as sanitation, fire and dump trucks.

    • Shorten backing path and improve visibility in areas of constant backing, such as at sanitation transfer stations.

  • Installation of backing sensors and rear-vision camera systems in vehicles assists in limiting rear blind spots. Investing in rear-view camera systems for vehicles can put drivers in better visual control of the rear of a vehicle.

  • No amount of forward-driving experience can help a driver with backing a truck or other vehicle. All drivers need to practice safe backing techniques and limit backing to only when absolutely necessary.

  • Creation and support of a municipal-wide training program: The program should include a driver’s course to teach and review backing techniques, and also cover equipment usage, hand signals, dangers to avoid, and other risk-lowering topics.

*Special thanks to Albert Pierce (Solid Waste Director, City of Durant) & Stephen Coy (Fire Chief, City of Warr Acres) for their contributions to this article.

For additional information on driver training or other value-added services from OMAG contact William Sheppard or Billy Carter at (800) 234-9461. 

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