Take the employee safety challenge

By Matthew A. Daecher

Chances are I have never been to your facility, stepped foot onto one of your vehicles, or know anything about your overall safety program. Despite this, I’d be willing to place two wagers about your passenger transportation operation:

1. You focus more on passenger safety and DOT compliance than worker safety and workplace safety compliance.
2. Your most frequent employee injuries are due to overexertion or slips, trips and falls.

I can’t predict the winning Powerball numbers, but if my bets about your operation ever paid off, you may take solace in the fact that you are not alone. My above assessment comes from many years of visiting with hundreds of transportation operations, reviewing their safety practices and looking at collision and injury issues and costs.

I would hope that you to aspire to better your operations and separate yourself from the rest of the pack. You can get started by accepting my challenge to complete at least three tasks that will positively affect employee safety within three weeks of reading this article.

If you’re still reading, I assume you’ve decided to accept the challenge — or at least entertain the idea to alleviate some of the risk lurking within your company.

If you’re on the fence with this, let me sweeten the deal. Being keenly aware that the probability of success relates directly to the amount of effort expended to meet the challenge, I am offering eight options from which you have to select only three to accomplish. This allows the best chance of success and ensures that everyone participating can choose the tasks that are most applicable to their operations. Overachievers, feel free to take on more than three. Here we go.

TASK 1: Find three tripping hazards. Yes, you have them. Tripping hazards can be anywhere from the front office and maintenance shop to the parking lot. If you can’t eradicate them, do something to call attention to them and make them more visible using visual cues like fluorescent paint, cones, etc.

TASK 2: Find three oversized items, or those that weigh more than 75 pounds that employees are expected to move, lift or carry. Determine if you have equipment such as hoists and wheel dollies available or have a policy in place that requires workers to get assistance for handling these items. If not, do something about it.

Bonus points: If you do have such equipment or policy, ask an employee to actually relocate one of the items to see if the process meets all expectations — if not, conduct an on-the-spot safety talk with all the workers.

TASK 3: Wait until dark. Go out to the employee parking lot. Is there sufficient lighting to illuminate the path between that lot and the area where the revenue vehicles are parked? Is there a danger of a trip hazard? If so, replace all burnt out bulbs or make lighting improvement a top-five capital expenditure item.

Remember, everyone wants more vehicles, but worker compensation injuries can chew a big chunk of out of the bottom line through lost productivity, partial salary payments and insurance costs.

A word to renters: If you rent or lease your operational facilities, suggest to your landlord about your performing improvements for a percentage reduction in rent, i.e., $2,000 in capital investment for a $1,000 rent deduction.

By the way, additional lighting doubles as a deterrent for other break-ins and crime.

TASK 4: Check every set of stairs for hazards. Look for and fix absent or worn friction material, frayed carpeting, missing or loose handrails, or items stacked on edges of stairs.

TASK 5. Inspect and address shop working surfaces. Instruct the shop crew to inspect for oil and grease areas that have not been cleaned up, or maybe oil-dry that has not been swept up. Asking the staff to stop what they are doing and clean up their areas on the spot will emphasize expectations and responsibility.

Repeat this every three days until they understand the policy to immediately handle such hazards.

TASK 6. Stage Operation Sure-Step. During this operation, scout for employees getting on and off the vehicle without taking necessary precautions. Most injuries occur when employees are stepping off the vehicle. Watch for this either during pre-trips where they should they should have to get on and off during the process.  Better yet, watch when they return from a trip. They are more likely to be exiting with their hands full — and without three points of contact to help prevent falls.

TASK 7. Beware of walking zombies. Humans are becoming increasingly tied socially to their smartphones, while the industry is asking drivers to not use their personal cell phones while driving the company vehicle.

As a result, smartphone timeouts are creating a nation of walking zombies when the timeout is over. I see it weekly when planes land and passengers empty into the terminal staring at their small screens. The same thing could be happening in your facilities.

With restrictions in place — and hopefully followed — drivers are turning on the personal phone once they park the vehicle and while catching up on the walk back to the building — making them oblivious to potential hazards. Watch for walking zombies in the lot, and talk about this at your next safety meeting.

TASK 8. Require chocks and jack stands. This task requires trips through the garage on three separate days during peak operating hours. If a vehicle in for service has any wheels on the ground, at least one should be chocked. Any vehicle on a lift in the area, either partially or entirely, should have jack stands in use for emergency support. If you don’t have enough chocks or jack stands, get more. If they are not being used, have a toolbox meeting and make it mandatory.

While the injuries that result from mishaps that that these practices can prevent may seem few and far between, they are usually very serious and very costly when they do occur.

A caveat

It doesn’t count if you choose one of these tasks and find nothing wrong or anyone to counsel. Choose another. Somehow I’m guessing you know exactly which of these tasks will be fruitful before you even start.

On a last note, do me a favor. For those of you who accept my challenge, drop me an email at matt@safetyteam.com and let me know which three or more tasks you chose and what you discovered.