Companies should track accidents according to whether they are preventable or non-preventable, advises Vercillo. “Once companies track the cost per 100,000 miles for local drivers, and per million miles for long-haul drivers, they should do a causal analysis to determine the causes of accidents in order to begin to target specific areas requiring training or retraining. By targeting the areas causing 80 percent of accidents, companies can focus on teaching drivers through actual mock simulations, especially for accidents occurring at intersections and involving backing up.”
Simple and common-sense practices such as setting mirrors properly can prevent accidents. “You would be surprised to know how many drivers just don’t know how to do this,” Vercillo says. “Many fleet managers don’t do a good enough job in providing the correct type of mirrors such as installing West Coast mirrors and moon mirrors that extend a driver’s visibility, particularly behind the truck.”
A number of studies are continuing to evaluate safety technologies like stability control, collision avoidance systems, and lane departure alerts, notes Chandler. Part of that evaluation is considering whether these systems offer a significant return on investment in their ability to prevent accidents. Common-sense equipment maintenance such as checking tire pressure and making sure brakes are properly adjusted can help prevent accidents, adds Chandler.
Vercillo believes training is not happening enough in the industry. “You should train drivers at least once a year with formal training. I think companies should have a quarterly accident review committee that gathers several drivers, a supervisor, a safety and compliance person, and an HR person who can all review the company’s accidents over the last 90 days. They can then decide whether the accidents were preventable or not and make a formal decision on how the accidents could have been prevented and how to proceed going forward. This is really essential.”
What safety really comes down to is adopting the right attitude, notes Chandler. “With the launch of FMCSA’s CSA 2010 (Comprehensive Safety Analysis), the industry is focusing on developing a safety culture and ingraining in drivers an attitude change about making safety the first priority. This means driving defensively to try to anticipate what other drivers might do. It means slowing your speed, increasing your following distance, and developing a routine of constantly checking your mirrors.
“When changing lanes, don’t assume traffic will yield to you. Defensive driving really works and many training programs reinforce these attitudes and behaviors. For professional drivers, it is important to be calm and maintain control at all times when operating a truck.”
Without proper training, workers in a warehouse environment could be prone to serious and even fatal accidents. New workers in this environment sometimes underestimate the numerous dangers imminent in innocuous-looking, slow-moving forklifts. The reality, however, is that forklifts carrying a load can weigh over twice the weight of an automobile and the results of being hit by one, or tipping over in one, can be disastrous. Forklift manufacturers and warehouse managers are developing comprehensive safety training programs that address how to prevent common accidents.
Causes: The most common accidents involve forklifts hitting things (including pedestrians), forklift tip-overs, and forklifts falling from docks. That is the bad news. The good news is that most of these accidents are preventable through proper operator training and through increasing safety awareness throughout all areas of the warehouse. “Since the OSHA training and compliance law went into effect in 1999, we have seen a dramatic reduction in incidence rates across the board, which demonstrates just how effective training is,” reports Ron Brewer, operator training manager for Crown Equipment in New Bremen, OH.
Forklifts hitting objects like ceiling support columns, racks, other equipment and pedestrians is the major cause of accidents, Brewer says. Tip-overs and off-dock falls are the next major causes. Operating industrial equipment like these forklifts can often mean an operator’s visibility is limited, reports Dixie Brock, national safety manager for APL Ltd, in Phoenix. “Sometimes drivers need to drive backwards and their bodies have to be twisted, impeding their ability to see the area immediately surrounding the forklift.”