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How To Make Safety Everyone's Top Priority

Data Blocks
Data Blocks

In any organisation, vehicles pose a significant risk to employee safety. Vehicle-related incidents are the main cause of workplace deaths in Australia. In particular, trucks are involved in 16 per cent of all road crash fatalities, even though they make up less than three per cent of all registered vehicles. In the first six months of 2017 alone, 90 people were killed in truck crashes.

If you’re operating a fleet of any size, it’s clear that safety should be your number one concern, but it shouldn’t stop at management. Everyone in the business needs to be equally invested in reducing dangerous behaviour – from back-office staff and despatchers to warehouse staff and drivers.

Real-time data on your fleet operations and GPS tracking systems installed in your vehicles will arm you with the necessary insights to monitor, enforce and improve safety across the business. But safety isn’t just a matter of wielding the technology as a disciplinary tool or ticking a box and hoping for the best. Creating a safe and productive company culture relies on certainty that everyone in the business is making the safest choice at every turn, until it becomes an ingrained habit.

Here are four steps to help you get started in creating a safety-first company:


1. Make Safety Everyone’s Concern

It’s important that everyone in the business understands what safe behaviour is, what it means for them and how their choices impact others. This isn’t just best practice, but a legal requirement under Chain of Responsibility (CoR) legislation.  Changes to the CoR mean everyone in the supply chain shares equal responsibility for safety and is liable for breaches of the Heavy Vehicle National Law, including fatigue management, speeding, mass and maintenance.

Here’s what that means for different people in your business:

  • Managers: It’s your job to actively identify risks in the business and act to mitigate them, rather than reacting once an incident occurs. You need a clear picture of operations and knowledge of your business inside out to spot dangerous trends.
  • Drivers: They need to know it’s okay to choose safety first no matter the deadline or business pressures. Research shows more than one in eight drivers feel unable to refuse an unsafe schedule, so they need reassurance they won’t be penalised for prioritising safety.
  • Other Employees: Any staff member with influence can face penalties if they contribute to unsafe behaviour. For example, a despatcher will be liable for asking for a delivery in an unreasonable time frame, causing the driver to skip a rest break and breach sign-posted speed limits.


2. Hold Proactive Training Sessions

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) says inadequate driver training is the biggest issue facing the transport sector. Education is key to shaping a safe company culture. This means holding regular training sessions, sharing frequent updates on trends and addressing any continuous poor habits before they lead to a collision.

If you have a large fleet, Teletrac Navman customer Life Without Barriers (LWB) recommends starting with a high-risk approach. If a driver has an incident, speeding event or safety infringement, they’re run through a training program to address the issue immediately. Regular education sessions are also held with the wider team to highlight common hazards and urge drivers to re-think their habits. This will soon be upscaled to include workshops for senior leaders on safe driving behaviours.

“The training program is all about driving a safer culture for the whole organisation. We care for a lot of clients across the country, and we’re concerned about their safety as well as our drivers. It’s an important part of our journey”, says Nathan Reynolds, Corporate Services Manager at LWB.


3. Create a Clear Safety Policy

A crystal-clear workplace health and safety policy will cement everyone’s CoR obligations and guarantee there’s no confusion about business expectations. Detail exact consequences for unsafe driving events, to help drivers know what to expect in any given situation. For example, what is the business response if they break the speed limit by a small amount compared to blowing right past it? Are there consequences for every single harsh braking instance, or will you only act after repeated instances? This also reassures drivers that context and the role of others on the road will be considered. And don’t forget rewards – what are the incentives for consistent safe driving?

If you’re installing a fleet management solution that monitors behaviour on the road, it’s also important to outline clear guidelines for its use. The technology alone won’t be effective if people don’t understand how or why it’s used. Be specific about when drivers are authorised to use vehicles out-of-hours, as well as when the vehicles will be tracked and what data you’re capturing. This helps to alleviate common driver apprehensions about telematics acting as ‘Big Brother’ to keep an eye on them at all times.


4. Modify Behaviour in Real Time

A methodical approach to cultural change is critical, but it’s also important to respond to safety breaches as they happen. For example, LWB uses GPS fleet tracking in every vehicle to send out speeding alerts. If a driver travels over the speed limit by less than 10 per cent, they’re sent a message straight away to an in-cabin screen so they can slow down. If they’re going faster than that, both a manager and an HR rep will receive an SMS alert so they speak to the driver as soon they’re back from the job. This has reduced speeding by 97 per cent over 12 months. “We’ve found it to be an innovative way of reducing speeding across the whole fleet. A driver only goes over the speed limit once before they get a reminder. They can change their behaviour then and there, rather than a month later when we issue a report”, Reynolds says.

Making safety a top business priority will curb collision rates, prevent serious consequences and build a positive and productive company culture. For change to take hold, it will require everyone in the business to get on-board and be proactive about encouraging safer behaviours.

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