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December 2013

2012 Motor Vehicle Crashes: What Do The Numbers Say?

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

The November 2013 issue of Traffic Safety Facts, published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) contains some interesting statistics.  Since transportation incidents account for the highest percentage of workplace deaths these numbers could be helpful to safety specialists, fleet managers, and just about anyone who drives a car.

  Graph 1

As can be seen by the above figure, the total number of fatalities in 2012 rose slightly over the previous year, the first time this has occurred since 2005.  33,561 people lost their lives in motor vehicle traffic crashes.  This represents a 3.3% increase from 2011.  However, when those numbers are broken down further here is what we see:

  • Both the fatality rate and the injury rate increased over 2011; 3.6% and 6.7% respectively.
  • Fatal crashes involving large trucks increased 3.7%
  • Total alcohol-impaired driving fatalities rose 3.3%

This seems to be all bad news; however, these are changes just from 2011 to 2012.  If we look at the bigger picture and compare data from a longer time frame the numbers are certainly more encouraging.  For example, 2012 had fewer fatalities than any other year back to 1963 with the exception of 2011. 

Graph 2The composition of fatalities has also changed significantly over the years.  As you can see here, vehicle occupants represent a much smaller percentage of the fatalities in 2012 than they did in 2003.  This speaks to the improved safety systems and increased seat belt usage in our vehicles today.  Unfortunately, a higher percentage of motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are killed than in 2003.

So, what does all this mean?  Driving a vehicle is still likely the most hazardous activity we all do each day.  Since the numbers went up from 2011 to 2012 we should take this very seriously; someone dies from a vehicle accident in this country every 16 minutes. 

 There are steps we can take to decrease the odds of becoming the next statistic. 

  • Driver training is often forgotten… after all, we all know how to drive, right?  Reviewing the basics of speed, following distance, braking technique, driving in adverse weather, distracted driving, and vehicle maintenance issues can be very helpful for any driver regardless of age or experience.   Remind employees that arriving safely, even a little late, is far better than risking a crash by speeding, tailgating, or driving aggressively.
  • Review your electronic device policy for drivers.  Every effort should be made to ensure people are not distracted by cell phones calls or texting while driving.  Keep in mind it really doesn’t matter if the phone is handheld or hands free; the cognitive distraction of the conversation is the real hazard.
  • Vehicle maintenance is critical for safe operation.  Drivers of company vehicles should be completing daily pre-trip inspections and all organizations should have routine maintenance schedules.  Tire pressures and tread wear are one of the most important factors in vehicle control so keep a close eye on those. 

Check out additional transportation safety resources from the MEMIC Safety Director, the NHTSA, and the National Safety Council


Safety is Hard Work

  Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

Workplace safety is often assumed to be someone else’s job, common sense, or just a matter of luck.  In fact, it takes a lot of dedicated focus by all members of an organization in order to be successful.  Vince Lombardi might have stated it best when he said, “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

All businesses must place safety as an equal priority with production and quality.  That means it takes a lot of work to keep safety on everyone’s mind, to continually improve processes and policies, and to instill a culture that deems injuries as unacceptable.  The old saying, “Safety is no accident” is overused, but it really is true. 

There are many elements to an overall safety program.  There may be a safety team or committee, a safety coordinator or manager, or a compliance person to deal with OSHA, DOT, FMCSA, FAA, or other federal and/or state organizations.  Safety training is ongoing and ever evolving and there’s always the challenge of new-hire orientation.  The list can go on and on, but most importantly there must be an organizational structure that supports safety on the front-line.  The supervisors in the shop, the store managers, the driver supervisors, or the office managers must understand their role in preventing injury and have the support of the entire organization. 

Having a thick “safety manual” is not the basis of a true safety program.  It may be an important element or tool in the effort to keep people safe, but the true measure of a program’s success lies in the level of dedication demonstrated by all employees.  Employees must be fully trained, use the right equipment, and have an understanding of the overall company goals as well as feel they have a say in safety related issues.  Front-line managers should have specific safety duties and responsibilities and be able to instill accountability in their assigned workers.  Leadership should support the front-line managers and give them the resources required.  Lastly, owners and CEO’s have to be leading the way, support their management teams, and recognize the need to balance safety, productivity, and safety.  

Building a successful safety program is a lot of work and it requires a lot of resources.  But the payback can be significant and long lasting.  A dollar spent today on safety will likely come back many times over as workers continue to be productive, motivated, and healthy.  Safety is not just a checklist or a bit of regulatory training.  It involves all people, top to bottom, with a belief that all injuries are preventable. 

Check out the Safety Director at MEMIC.com for safety related resources in order to start building, or improving, your company’s safety program.  With the new year around the corner this is a pretty good time to review your program, your losses, your successes, and set a plan for the year to come.  Best of luck to you… but remember, safety is not luck, it’s manageable! 


Occupational Noise and Hearing Conservation

John DeRoia 2013 Posted by John DeRoia

MEMIC will be hosting a live webinar covering Occupational Noise and Hearing Conservation on December 19 at 10:00am.  Register any time at www.memic.com

How can you tell if you're losing your hearing? You probably can't. Hearing loss is an insidious process that creeps up on you with little or no warning. As sound reception becomes fainter, you may try to compensate without even realizing it—by turning the TV or radio up louder, by asking others to repeat themselves, or even by leaning closer to the source.

Prolonged exposure to loud noises, on and off the job, accumulates over years and can eventually cause permanent hearing impairment or deafness. By the time you realize you have a problem, the condition is very likely irreversible.

Don't wait until it is too late. Start wearing your hearing protection devices right away. You are ultimately responsible for consistent and proper use of your protective equipment.

Issues & Answers

You are used to the noise and it doesn't bother you.
This may be true, but exposure to noise does not "toughen up" your ears. The reason it doesn't bother you may be because you have already begun to lose your hearing.

If you've already lost some hearing, why wear the protectors now?
Just because you've lost some of your hearing doesn't mean you can't lose more or all of it. Early hearing loss is concentrated in the higher frequencies. As it progresses, it spreads to the lower frequencies and affects normal speech comprehension.  Although protection devices cannot restore a noise-induced hearing loss, they can prevent additional losses.

Your machine sounds different with the protectors on. 
Yes, it does sound different, and over time you will adjust to the differences and be able to monitor the sounds effectively.

With hearing protection you can't hear your co-workers. 
Without protectors, the high noise level causes sensory overload.  Reducing overall sound levels allows the ear to operate more effectively, just as sunglasses provide improved vision in high glare conditions.  It may take some time to adjust, but you should then be able to hear whatever you need to.

Why are the protectors so uncomfortable?
They shouldn't be, although like new shoes or glasses, they do need a period of adjustment. If the discomfort persists, it could be a sizing problem or you may need a different type of protector.

To make sure that we all do our part in hearing conservation, it is important that we receive cooperation from everyone. Besides openly discussing your concerns, you can make a difference by doing the following:

  1. Follow all precautions, procedures, and practices for your machinery and your hearing devices to minimize excessive exposure to noise.
  2. Watch for warning signs that are posted in areas where high noise levels exist and make sure you wear your protectors in those areas.
  3. Protect your hearing both at work and at home.  Make sure you minimize noise exposure in all aspects of your life. Protect your children's hearing, too, by explaining the dangers of blasting music—and set an example for them.

Look for the upcoming MEMIC webinar and additional safety information on www.memic.com