Know Your Enemy

Accidents have both immediate and contributing causes, which relate to hazards encountered while driving. Identifying these hazards, which allows drivers to then control or eliminate them, is the first step toward avoiding accidents.

The recognition of hazards is the most difficult aspect of this work. Eliminating a risk is usually a matter of applying the necessary resources for corrective action. The process depends on having trained, experienced people who are willing and able to devote the necessary time. Any employee who might potentially identify hazards — such as drivers, operators, mechanics and supervisors — should be trained in risk identification.

Activities performed during loading and unloading, such as walking, bending, lifting, carrying, climbing and equipment handling, create hazards for waste truck drivers. Additional risks faced when driving include fatigue, speeding, lane changes, fog, ice and snow, cell phone use, intersections, railroad crossings, rollovers, space management, road rage and backing.

Waste companies should create a hazard inspection protocol that is customized for their drivers. Risks can be added as they are identified.

Company information that is collected for other purposes should also be used to identify hazards. For example:

  • Accident data

    Understanding the primary and underlying causes of an accident will identify risks.

  • Time cards or DOT logs

    Analysis can highlight fatigue issues.

  • Data from satellite, in-cab computers or other engine monitoring devices

    These reports can be reviewed for speed, stops, hard braking or fatigue problems.

  • SAFER and SafeStat DOT reports

    Numbers that deviate from the trend line can indicate hazards.

It is important to remember that accidents are not the only time to look for problems. Waste firms should actively monitor their operations for hazards when things are “normal.” Field feedback helps management gain a clear understanding of how things are happening as well as what hazards are challenging the driver.

Companies that have succeeded at identifying a majority of their risks often use more than one method of monitoring safety, just as golfers use different clubs to suit different situations. Each organization must find the best blend of techniques for its operation. Examples of ways to gather useful safety information include:

  • In-cab courtesy rides

    Ride-a-longs are the best way to see what the driver faces each day.

  • Peer observations

    Drivers should be reviewed by other drivers as well as trainers.

  • Public comment

    Prominently display a toll-free number and follow-up on calls.

  • Customer observations

    Get feedback at job sites.

  • Observations by management

    Managers should regularly observe every part of the job, including pre-departure, in-route, loading and unloading, and post-return.

  • Discussion

    Management, dispatch and drivers should regularly hold one-on-one discussions.

While any identified hazards should be corrected immediately, sometimes this is not possible. Set a target date and document the indicated resources and person responsible for implementing the correction.

To operate a safe fleet, waste firms should establish a process that systematically identifies hazards and sets priorities in designing corrective measures. Those measures should then be implemented in a timely and consistent manner.

Frederick Clark, XL Specialty Insurance Company www.xlinsurance.com