Special Topics in Safety Management

Fleet Safety: Don’t Let These Roadway Hazards Slide under Your Radar

Make sure employees who drive on the job take proper precautions to prevent accidents and injuries.

Your fleet safety program probably covers distractions like texting, factors like alcohol and fatigue that affect driver alertness, and behaviors like speeding and tailgating that lead to accidents. And you’re no doubt on top of the need for regular vehicle inspections and maintenance.

But fleet safety is an evolving area, and you may be less aware of some other factors that can affect driver and vehicle safety. If you’re in charge of fleet safety for your employer, make sure these less well-publicized hazards aren’t slipping under your road safety radar.

Seat Belts

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that rates of seat belt use are up overall, reaching 87 percent nationwide in 2013. The bad news is that drivers are significantly less likely to wear their seat belts after the sun goes down. In nighttime crashes in 2012, NHTSA reports, almost two-thirds of the vehicle occupants who died were not wearing their seat belts. Make sure your workers buckle up every time they get into a vehicle.

Tires

You probably know you need to replace a vehicle’s tires when the tread depth reaches 2/32 of an inch—which is level with the built-in tread wear indicators on the tire. What you may not realize is that the age of the tire can also affect its safety and performance.


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Age can affect your tires in two ways:

Your safety orientation program and the importance you give to safety generally say a lot about the importance of safety in your workplace. And remember—even if they don’t say so, the majority of new employees are deeply concerned about their safety on the job.

  • At time of purchase. You wouldn’t buy milk without checking its sell-by date to make sure it is fresh—but how fresh are the tires you just bought? Although dealers are supposed to dispose of tires that have been on the shelf for 4 years without being sold, not all of them do. Some outlets have been caught selling tires that were more than 10 years old as brand new. Tires that old may have degraded in storage, making them more vulnerable to blowouts and tread separation.
  • During use. Tires have a useful working life of 6 to 10 years from the date of manufacture. A vehicle that doesn’t get a lot of use could take longer than that to wear down the tread. That means you could have a tire that is acceptable judged by mileage and tread-depth but that needs to be replaced based on its age.

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) makes it easy to determine when a tire was manufactured. Each tire has an identification number beginning with “DOT” on the sidewall; the last four digits are the week and year the tire was made. If the tires on your vehicles are more than 6 years old, consider replacing them.

The Safety Feature You’re Not Seeing

Unless you have eyes in the back of your head, you may not pay much attention to your vehicle’s headrest, but front-seat headrests have been a required safety feature in all passenger vehicles since 1991. They can prevent the most common type of injury that occurs when a vehicle is rear-ended: whiplash.

Headrests only work if they’re properly adjusted, though, so make sure your workers know how to properly adjust them. The top of the headrest should be even with the top of the driver’s or passenger’s head. If the occupant is so tall that the headrest will not go that high, the headrest should be placed at its highest setting.

In addition, the distance between the occupant’s head and the headrest should be no more than 4 inches. To get the distance right, vehicle occupants may have to adjust the reclining angle of the seat as well as the headrest.


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Keep Your Workforce Safe

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