Just driving on Canadian roads is major hazard for crane firms

Kevin Cunningham
March 15, 2016
By Kevin Cunningham

A successful fleet safety program takes proper planning, communication, time and resources… but in the long run the benefits to your crane company are significant.

Fewer collisions mean smaller repair bills and fewer out-of-service vehicles in addition less time devoted to accident paperwork — not to mention the reduction in injury to your people.

As a Canadian crane industry employer, you assign many tasks to your workforce every day. Some of these tasks carry the heavy burden of increased risk factors to your people.

Often times it’s easy to get consumed in the complexities of crane and rigging applications only lose sight of the fact that over-the-road driving is one of the highest risk factors that an employer can assign to its people. According to the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association of Ontario, more workers are killed in motor vehicle incidents than in any other workforce activity in Canada.

Your workers drive as part of their job, and you expect them to drive safely… But if they’re driving company-owned or company-leased vehicle, you have the responsibility to make sure they are properly trained, that your vehicles are properly maintained, and there’s a detailed road safety program in place. It is also very important that your company demonstrate its commitment to fleet safety by creating and fostering a culture of driver safety in the workplace.

According to most joint health and safety committee members, three key elements for overall fleet safety training are:

• defensive driving

• road safety controls

• fleet maintenance program

Defensive driver training

Your drivers can learn how to effectively drive defensively. Many excellent training courses are available in Canada, including the IHSA.ca courses. Defensive driving will help your workers recognize and control the hazards associated with heavy equipment loads. All workers should receive defensive driver training on the specific vehicles and heavy equipment they will be using as part of their job in your crane company.

Additionally, it is beneficial to conduct routine assessments of your workers to help identify any medical conditions or changes in fitness that could affect your workers ability to drive.

Multi-faceted road safety controls

All Canadian crane employers should maintain multi-faceted road safety controls.

Developing thorough road safety controls through a joint health and safety committee approach is recommended to ensure multiple perspectives are included from select office-management and field staff.

Include company policies on such topics as:

• rules for using company vehicles;

• using hands-free technology requirements;

• bad-weather driving;

• reporting all incidents;

• driving hours and rest periods;

• substance abuse policy;

• smoking in vehicles; and

• reviewing of driver abstracts from the transportation ministry to establish minimum benchmarks for safe driving.

Crane companies that communicate these types of road safety controls to their workers prove that they care about their staff and can enhance their overall company safety culture.

Fleet maintenance programs

Proper fleet maintenance is as important as your crane equipment maintenance. As you are likely aware, you have three main methods or choices for your fleet maintenance:  scheduled, preventative, and condition-based.

Each has certain inherent benefits. But considering today’s constantly evolving technology condition-based maintenance might prove to be the most cost-effective. All three maintenance methods should assist your fleet safety objectives.

A few basic principles that should be followed regardless which method you choose are as follows:

• Your maintenance program needs to be well-organized.

• It needs to be consistently documented.

• It should define certain operational procedures.

• And it should be consistent with the fleet manufacturer specifications.

In closing, here are a couple of items that can give perspective to achieve total fleet safety, or TFS:

• There is no free lunch!

• Action speaks louder than words!

Delaying or foregoing the development of a progressive fleet-safety program equates to believing you may get a free lunch just by doing the basics with fleet safety. It is a proven fact in this writer’s 30 years experience underwriting the crane industry that whenever one of your workers gets behind the wheel of your fleet for business purposes, your company and your employee are at risk.

And while laws and levels of liability for negligent entrustment vary by province and state, your company and your people are equally at risk driving as they are operating the most complex heavy equipment in crane works.

We urge you to make driver safety an equal focus at your company.

— Kevin Cunningham

Kevin Cunningham is CEO, Construction Division, HIIG Underwriters Agency Canada, Ltd.

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