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Distracted Driving Messages Abound

KlattPosted by Randy Klatt, WCP®

Distracted Driving Messages Abound… We Mean You!

The public service messages regarding safe driving are just about everywhere. On billboards, electronic signs, and bumper stickers we see reminders to buckle up, don’t drink and drive, and put down the cell phone. The question is this: Is the message getting through?

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Each year there are approximately 1.7 million injury crashes in the U.S., and 2015 and 2016 saw significant increases in the number of traffic fatalities. It doesn’t sound like drivers are getting the message, does it? These crashes take a terrible toll on individual workers, families, and employers across the country. With an economic toll in the hundreds of billions it is also a significant business concern. 

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What should employers be doing to protect their most valuable assets… their workers? Create a fleet policy that covers all employees who drive company vehicles or their own vehicles on company business. Include:

  • annual motor vehicle record checks and set strong requirements to qualify to drive
  • electronic device policies that significantly limit or prohibit use while driving
  • regular vehicle inspections
  • ongoing maintenance requirements
  • ensure vehicles have safety equipment and adverse weather gear when needed
  • ongoing driver training

Setting a policy is the easy part. Ensuring employees follow the policy is another issue. Cell phones certainly provide instant communication, access to sales staff, customer service excellence, and other efficiencies. However, the dangers of driving while using the phone are well documented. Employers cannot demand productivity levels that are only possible if workers use phones while driving. Don’t fall into the “do as I say and not as I do” trap. In 2011, The National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide ban on electronic devices while driving.   

Safe driving is all about physics. Speed, distance, time… drivers can’t allow themselves to become the victim of the laws of physics. Allow plenty of time to reach your destination, follow all traffic laws including speed limits, and allow adequate following distance between vehicles.  A car travelling at highway speed is moving about 100 feet per second. There simply is not enough time to make decisions and react to an event on the road if your car is only a few feet away from the car in front of you. 

As we approach the Labor Day weekend and the end of summer, there will be plenty of people on the road. Some will be in a hurry, some will be distracted, many will be tired, and some will be impaired.  We owe it to ourselves, our employers, and our families to stay alert and “arrive alive."

Check out the resources available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety,  and the National Safety Council


Pour Me Another Cup of Coffee

Jones Posted by Anthony G. Jones, R.N., COHN

Pour Me another Cup of Coffee… for I am a truck driving man” comes from the song “Truck Drivin’ Man” recorded by Buck Owens in 1965. This blast from the past came to mind when thumbing through a recent AAOHN journal. I came across an article referencing a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) study on caffeine and truck driving.1  The study looked at the relationship between caffeine use, sleep, and “Safety Critical Events” (SCE). An SCE is described as a collision, tire strike, near-collision, unexpected lane deviation, or collision related conflict. 

The VTTI study, conducted over a four-month period, used long and short haul drivers from four companies. The subjects drove instrumented trucks, which included cab mounted video and driver maintained logs recording their sleep patterns and caffeine use.  Any SCE events were evaluated by researchers watching the video feeds in conjunction with the subject’s log books.

The study revealed that caffeine did not interrupt the sleep of drivers who were habitual users of caffeine. Drivers in the study actually slept longer during their “on duty” sleep periods than during their “off duty” sleep periods. This was despite increased caffeine use during “on duty” periods. Although it was noted in the study “participants experienced less sleep than the time historically considered adequate for safe driving performance.”

That was interesting, but what really got my attention was this finding: “Overall, a 6% reduction in the rate of SCE per eight (8) ounces of caffeinated beverage consumed.”

The positive and negative effects of caffeine are well known. It is one of the most used stimulants and commonly found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and soft drinks.  According to WebMD, caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system, heart, muscles, and the centers that control blood pressure. Caffeine can raise blood pressure, but it might not have this effect on people that use it all the time.  It can also act as a “water pill”, or a mild diuretic. But again, it may not have this effect on people who use caffeine regularly. Caffeine improves mental alertness and is used in combination with painkillers such as aspirin and Tylenol to treat simple and migraine headaches. 

Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most adults, according to the Mayo Clinic.  That’s roughly four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola, or two “energy shot” drinks.  Heavy use of more than 500 to 600 mg a day may cause such symptoms as insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, stomach upset, fast heartbeat, and muscle tremors. 

The VTTI study suggests SCE’s may be reduced for those who have the caffeine habit. The VTTI study suggested “caffeine use among habitual users offers some protection against SCE without negative effect on sleep.”  However, two groups did not improve. Drivers aged 30 to 39 had an increase in collisions, and drivers aged 21 to 29 experienced an increase in unexpected lane deviations. The report indicated it wasn’t clear if those age groups were more distracted by secondary activities, or risky behavior such as speeding or tail-gating.

An Australian study also found caffeine use had a positive benefit in SCE reduction. The study used more subjects, a control group, and ran longer than the VTTI study.  “Our findings suggest that the consumption of caffeinated stimulant substances is associated with a significantly reduced risk of involvement in a crash for long distance drivers in Australia,” the study concluded. “The use and influence of caffeinated stimulants should be considered as an effective adjunct strategy to maintain alertness while driving.”

It appears the use of caffeine can have a benefit in reducing overall truck accidents and near miss incidences. That’s the good news. The bad news is truck drivers are not getting adequate sleep.  Significantly, as shown in the Australian study, the SCE benefits only came with high consumption of caffeine. There was no real improvement for those with low or moderate caffeine use.

Significantly, according to Lisa Sharwood, M.S., one of the Australian study authors, “While caffeine may seem effective in enhancing their alertness...it should be considered carefully in the context of a safe and healthy fatigue management strategy… Energy drinks and coffee certainly don't replace the need for sleep.” 

For more information regarding sleep and safe driving, check out the resources available at DrowsyDriving.org., and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

 

1 American Association of Occupational Health Nurse Association (AAOHN) “Workplace Health and Safety” August 2015 Vol. 63 #8.  “The Effect of Caffeine Use on Driving Safety Among Truck Drivers Who are Habitual Caffeine Users.” Authored by Karen Heaton PhD, FNP-BC and Russell Griffin PhD.

 

 

 

 


Don’t be a Hot Head: Tips to Avoid Heat Stress

Whether you are working outside or participating in an athletic event like the TD Beach to Beacon in Maine, ASYMCA Mud Run in Virginia or New York Adventure Racing Association's Trail Series, avoiding heat stress is essential to achieving your goals and having a safe and enjoyable summer. Thousands of workers and athletes require treatment for heat exposure each year.  Here are some of the more serious heat disorders:

Heat Rash is the most common problem in hot environments and produces blister-like raised bumps on the skin that may itch or be painful to the touch. Treatment includes limiting time in the heat, keeping the skin dry and showering promptly after being in the heat.

Heat Cramps are painful muscle spasms that occur in the leg, arm, or abdomen. The cramps occur as a result of extended physical activity in a hot environment. Heat cramps are one of the first signs of dehydration. If you suffer from heat cramps you should rest and drink water and electrolyte liquids like Gatorade. Eat salty crackers to increase salt in-take. Do not use salt tablets. Try chewing on ice chips to cool down.

Heat Exhaustion is a result of the combination of excessive heat and dehydration. This serious condition, which left untreated, can lead to heat stroke. Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness and/or fainting, weakness, heavy sweating, thirst, moist-clammy skin, and elevated body temperature. People in this condition should be moved to a cool shaded area. Cool them with water or cold compresses to the head, neck, and face. Have them drink water and electrolyte liquids like Gatorade. If they cannot drink or become lethargic, call 911. Make sure someone stays with them until help arrives.

Heat Stroke is the most serious illness associated with working in hot environments and if left untreated will result in death. Symptoms include hot dry skin (sweating may or may not still be present), red-bluish skin, rapid pulse, confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures/convulsions, very high body temperature. Call 911 immediately. Soak clothing and skin in cool water and use a fan to create air movement. Make sure someone stays with the worker until help arrives.

Preventing heat stress in the first place is the goal and following these five tips will go a long way towards keeping you safe:

  1. Plan your day.  If you can, avoid strenuous activity during the hottest parts or the day. If possible, secure a shady spot near your activity zone to take breaks in and limit time in the direct sun.
  2. Wear the right gear. Light colored, breathable fabrics and hats that shade your face and neck will help to keep you comfortable under the sun’s rays. Eye damage is a concern, too – make sure your pair of sunglasses filters at least 90 percent of ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  3. Apply sunscreen early and often. The benefits of regular sunscreen use are well-documented, but studies continue to show that adults often don’t wear enough, if they wear it at all. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (protecting against UV-A and UV-B rays) with an SPF of at least 15. Apply liberally 30 minutes before going outside, and every two hours thereafter.
  4. Stay hydrated. The more we sweat, the more important it is to replace the fluids our body has lost. Water is perfectly acceptable for short periods outside, but for longer stretches, you may want to consider replenishing your electrolytes with a sports drink. The Center for Disease Control recommends approximately one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. Alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks are not recommended, as they tend to dehydrate your body.
  5. Assess how you’re feeling on a regular basis. If you can, take the time to rest in the shade for a few minutes every hour and monitor yourself for signs of overexposure and dehydration. If you’re feeling dizzy, nauseated, or extremely fatigued, it’s likely a sign that your body needs a break from heat exposure. Muscle pain or spasms may indicate dehydration or low salt levels.  Don’t ignore these warning signals. Overextending yourself can be a serious health risk.

By taking some simple precautions and staying mindful of your body’s reactions to exertion and the temperature, many heat-related sicknesses, like heat stroke, dehydration, and sunburn can be avoided and your summer will be a lot more enjoyable. Check out these resources from NIOSH or the MEMIC Safety Director for more information on heat street. Running in the USA is also a great resource for outdoor events and clubs.


Transportation Leads the Way

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

In 2010, 4690 U.S. workers died while on the job.  Although this represents a 3% increase from 2009, both years continue an overall downward trend in workplace deaths.  For example, in 1994 there were 6632 workers killed.  This trend is good news for all of us, yet over 13 people still die each day at work.   

Take a look at the pie chart below to see the manner in which fatal work injuries occurred.  With this knowledge you may be able to address specific issues at your workplace in order to mitigate the hazards.  It’s pretty easy to see what is killing most people:  40% of fatalities were transportation incidents.      
Transportation Graph
Source:  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2012

Ask yourself if your employees drive either company cars, vans, trucks, heavy machinery, or their own personal vehicles during the course of their jobs.  If the answer is “yes” then a fleet plan should be developed to ensure the safe operation and condition of all vehicles.  There are many elements to a comprehensive fleet plan and each organization’s would differ slightly.  However, they should all include policies regarding driver’s license checks, vehicle inspections, maintenance programs, traffic law responsibilities, and driver safety training and education. 

Check out the Safety Director Resource Library at MEMIC.com for fleet plan tools and resources.  Get started today and ensure all employees Arrive Alive each and every day.       

 


Traffic Work Zone Safety

Webb Hartley Posted by Hartley Webb

With the sudden appearance of warm spring weather we are already seeing another sign of the season:  road repair, street and parking lot sweeping, and highway cleanup crews.  Transportation incidents are the leading cause of death in the workplace, so take a minute to read over these tips if your employees are exposed to motor vehicle traffic. 

Some employers feel that placing a worker wearing a reflective vest in a traffic zone is acceptable rather than using other exposure control methods.  Employers should control traffic risks by:

  1. Eliminating the hazard.  Can the work be done when there is no vehicle traffic?
  2. Evaluating engineering controls.  For example, can barriers be used to separate workers from all moving traffic?
  3. Implementing administrative controls.  Ensure adequate training and strict work rules are enforced.  Keep workers out of the direct traffic lane when possible, and ensure they are alert and attentive to all moving vehicles including construction equipment.
  4. Lastly, use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as retro-reflective clothing, hard hats, and safety toed boots.    

Flaggers must be effectively trained, certified, and supervised in order to prevent improper traffic flagging techniques.  These can be caused by inadequate training, a low willingness to follow training objectives, or failure to properly supervise.  Following the guidelines provided by the US Department of Transportation’s publication “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices” (MUTCD Part 6) is critical for proper work zone setup.   Check out this resource here:  MUTCD

OSHA provides a “Quick Card” for Work Zone Traffic Safety that can found online -  Work Zone OSHA Quick Card.   Finally, the Center for Disease Control is a great resource for additional training documents and information regarding highway work zone safety.  Check their website at CDC Highway Work Zones.


Know about the "No Zone"

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt


Sharing the roads with large trucks is a real safety concern for those driving passenger cars.  But one important point to remember is that a large tractor trailer or snow plow creates “blind spots” that limit the truck driver’s ability to see all areas around the vehicle.  If you drive within these areas the trucker won’t be able to see your car.

This area is easy to locate.  Remember, if you can’t see the trucks mirrors, then the truck driver can’t see you.  Steer clear of these blind spots so that the truck driver won’t pull into your lane.  Driving in the No Zone also limits your visibility to the side or front, so please avoid them.

The diagram below illustrates the No Zones around a snow plow; very applicable this time of year.  Sharing the road with large commercial vehicles is a necessity and can be done safely.  Just be patient and avoid the NO ZONE. 

Check out these two websites for more information:  
http://www.clearroads.org/driversafety_resources.html 
http://www.maine.gov/dps/bhs/about/

Remember:  Ice and Snow, Take it Slow!

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Be Ready for Winter Driving

Darnley Dave Posted by Dave Darnley

Since today is the first official day of winter it is time to think about winter driving challenges and the condition of our vehicles. 

Check your vehicle to make sure your tires are in good condition and properly inflated (and never mix radial tires with other tire types).  The legal minimum tread depth is only about 1/3 of what is really needed for proper performance on snow.  Your defroster system and windshield wipers will see extra duty so be sure they are in good working order.  Keep a snow brush and ice scraper handy along with an extra gallon of windshield washer fluid. Include an emergency kit with first aid supplies, flashlight, blanket, and reflective triangles.  

If driving in mountainous regions the best advice is to stay off the roads; however, if travel is required you may also want to carry tire chains (check local laws first), sand, and a shovel. If driving in remote areas or on divided highways with limited exits, you should consider carrying a sleeping bag, boots and warm clothing.

Lastly, drive with extra caution when weather and driving conditions change, and use your seat belt every time you get in to your vehicle.  Check out the following links for more information concerning winter driving.

Clear Roads Winter Driving Campaign

Maine Department of Labor's Winter Driving Tips


Hang Up and Drive

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

On Tuesday December 13, 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide ban on all portable electronic devices (PED’s) for all motorists.  The NTSB came to its recommendation after investigating a multi-vehicle crash in Gray Summit, MO that involved a driver who was texting. The crash, which occurred on Aug. 5, 2010, killed two people and injured 38 including children in two school buses.  The National Safety Council (NSC) made this recommendation many months ago and was quick to endorse this NTSB vote.

It is clear that drivers are frequently distracted by electronic devices.  Naturally this creates a safety concern not just for the distracted driver, but for everyone else on the road, in cross walks, and in construction work zones.  The NSC estimates 1.3 million crashes, or 23 percent of all crashes, involve distracted drivers using cell phones. “Quantifying crashes and fatalities involving cell phone use while driving is challenging due to several factors such as a driver’s unwillingness to admit the behavior and lack of witnesses. Additionally, cell phone use currently is not consistently captured on police reports. We are able to develop an estimate of crashes based on risk and exposure, but the problem could be much larger than we estimate,” says Janet Froetscher, NSC President and CEO. 

The links below offer the latest information concerning this topic.  If your employees drive as part of their work routine, then it is time to review your fleet plan and consider eliminating this risk.   

National Safety Council

National Transportation Safety Board Fact Sheet

Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?


Fatigue: A Sleeping Giant Behind the Wheel

Klatt Randy 
Posted by Randy Klatt

The next time you get behind the wheel, be it for work or pleasure, take a moment to consider how tired you feel and if you are really in the proper condition to operate a motor vehicle.  This may sound like common sense, but all too often people operate under the influence—the influence of fatigue.  Transportation accounts for the most workplace fatalities every year and more than 40,000 people die each year in the U.S. in traffic accidents.  We take driving for granted, but it really is serious business. 

Less than half of adults in America say they get a good night’s sleep every night. So it should be no surprise that up to 40% of all serious accidents are caused by driver fatigue. There are plenty of hazards on the roadways today that we can't control but driving while fatigued is one we can.

A vehicle traveling at 65 miles-per-hour covers nearly 100 feet-per-second.  Imagine how devastating even a few seconds of inattention could be.  You owe it to yourself and to the rest of the traveling public to be at your best when driving.  Get plenty of sleep, avoid driving after very long work days, stay hydrated and take frequent breaks on long trips.  Fatigue can make even the best driver a very dangerous one.

There are many resources available to help you, your employees and your family members drive safely and control the effects of fatigue.  Check out these listed below:


Winter is here! Are your drivers prepared for breakdowns?

Koch Peter 2 Posted by Peter Koch

The first major snow storm this year in the mid-Atlantic area rang in 57,000 calls from stranded AAA customers. In cold, wintry weather, even a minor car problem like a flat tire can be deadly serious, or at least miserable to deal with, unless you're prepared. Save your driving crew time and headache by getting vehicles winter-ready in the event of a breakdown.

 

All fleet vehicles should be equipped with a car-emergency kit year-round, but in winter, cold-weather gear should be added. 

 

A typical winter emergency kit:

  • Jumper cables
  • High visibility vest (class II or III)
  • Traction enhancers for shoes
  • Warning triangle
  • Cat litter or sand
  • Shovel
  • Ice scraper
  • Warm clothes like gloves and a hat
  • Blankets
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • First aid kit—also pack prescribed medications
  • Cell phone with a list of emergency numbers

More resources on winterizing vehicles: