In this series of articles, we will explore some of the key elements of an effective and proven work-related road risk management program, based on the well-known Health & Safety Management principles of Plan, Do, Check, Act, applied to work-related driving.
In our 2nd article, we look at some of the key steps that make up the ‘Do’ phase. It is important to remember that many stages in the process will interact and overlap with each other, so when developing your own program, it is important to consider all the elements rather than looking at anything in isolation.
Management and Culture
You will see from the illustration of what an effective and proven work-related road risk management process looks like that management and culture influence how all elements work. We will explore this in more detail when we discuss some of the key elements of the ‘Do’ phase.
The important thing to remember here is that without the appropriate management support – from the senior leadership team down to your line managers and supervisors – and without the right on-road safety culture, then any program you put in place is unlikely to prove successful and/or sustainable at reducing your collision and claim rates.
Work-related road risk management - Do
This is the second stage of the process, where you identify, analyse, and understand what risks you face, decide on which of these you are going to manage, and implement the appropriate management and driver-focused interventions.
You might already have some existing risk assessments and interventions in place, and you need to decide whether these are sufficient and effective, whether any changes are needed and whether you need to supplement these activities.
It is important to understand which employees are at risk, and why, as without this insight it is difficult to ensure that the appropriate interventions are put in place to mitigate risks. There are several methods you can use here:
A driver risk assessment should cover the three fundamental areas of work-related driving:
Risk assessments could also include core driver competencies, such as attitudes, behaviours, knowledge, and hazard recognition skills.
Many organisations offer online risk assessments, or you could use your own – the important thing here is that they are comprehensive, all employees complete them, and you act on the findings (see below).
Classic driver risk assessments provide you with a snapshot of the current situation, but over time things change - legislation changes, technologies change and, most importantly, your operating practices and procedures change. It is important, from a Health & Safety management perspective, that your risk assessments are current and valid, so whenever there is a significant change, especially if this is something internal in your organisation, then the risk assessments should be re-visited.
Some examples of when to re-visit your risk assessments would include whenever:
Sales territories are reassigned or reorganised.
New operational practices are introduced which impact on driving.
There are internal job role changes.
An employee is asked to drive a different class or size of vehicle.
This list is not exhaustive – essentially, every time there is a change in your operations or organisation, then consider whether your driver risk assessments are still valid.
Conventional driver risk assessments are very useful, but, as mentioned above, they are just a snapshot in time. Technology can help you supplement these assessments with more current data to help you identify any changes and act before a collision occurs.
There are many telematics solutions – from traditional hard-wired systems through to Smartphone apps – that provide data on driver behaviours. From a dynamic risk assessment perspective, data that provides insights into the risks an employee faces include:
Speed against the posted speed limit.
Speed against typical speeds on a particular road at a particular time of day.
Harsh events, such as braking, cornering and acceleration.
The total length of the working day, including driving, and how often breaks are taken.
Mobile phone usage (generally only available via some Smartphone apps).
What you are mainly looking for here, from a risk assessment perspective, are negative trends that indicate something has changed. The data itself will not tell you what the underlying reason for the change is, but it provides a red flag that needs investigating, and subsequent conversations with the employee will help you understand what the root causes are.
It is important to mention here that you should never discourage harsh braking, as this can be the difference between avoiding a collision or having a crash. Safe drivers rarely need to brake harshly, so it is the trends in incidences of harsh braking that need investigation.
Other sources of data
There are a number of other sources of data that can provide insights into the risks employees face on the road:
Analysis of your collision data will identify employees who have the highest collision frequencies and also what types of crashes they are having.
Servicing and maintenance records can provide insights into those employees who cause increased wear and tear on their vehicles, indicating aggressive driving tendencies.
If you have cameras fitted to your vehicles, trends in triggered events can help identify at-risk employees.
If you use a ‘How’s My Driving’ scheme, feedback from members of the public can provide insights, although care must be taken with this data as it is based on opinions rather than facts.
Journey & site risk assessments
If you have employees making frequent journeys on the same route, then carry out risk assessments on these routes, focusing on known collision hotspots, time-of-day based risks such as schools, and any other vehicle-specific risks that may be relevant.
Similarly, carry out risk assessments of your own sites and car parks, as well as those of your customers, which your employees visit frequently.
Once you have all your risk assessment data from the combination of sources outlined above, you then need to decide what you are going to manage – it is unrealistic, at least initially, to manage all the identified risks. Decide what’s important to you so that you can prioritise. It makes sense to look at what the biggest risks are, based on the main causes of serious collisions – speeding, distractions, fatigue and impairment. If any of the risk assessment data indicates that you have employees at risk in these areas, then this can be your initial focus.
Managers and supervisors have an important role to play here, as they are best placed (after the appropriate training) to conduct driver debriefs and investigate the underlying root causes of any identified negative trends in any driver behaviour. The most important thing to remember here is to investigate whether anything at a management or operational level is contributing to these negative trends – ask yourself the question, “What have we done, as an organisation, that may have contributed to these observed trends?”
You will see from the diagram that the risk assessment process is an ongoing one. Initially, you focus on the high-risk areas, and every time you re-visit the program, you have the opportunity to refocus on some of the lesser risks – this will help you achieve continuous improvement in your road safety performance and associated collision and claim rates.
Select & Implement Controls
Selecting the appropriate interventions is a critical part of the process that is easy to get wrong. Many organisations focus their interventions on the driver, which on the face of it, seems a reasonable thing to do, especially as the risk assessment data (see above) is mostly focused on the employee. It is the underlying reasons why an employee is at risk. However, that should determine what interventions are appropriate; these could be management initiatives and/or focused on the driver.
Once you understand the underlying reasons for an identified risk, always use the ‘hierarchy of control’ to determine the appropriate intervention:
Can the risk be eliminated?
Can the risk be substituted for something less risky?
Can the risk be reduced?
If we take a simple example of an employee being at risk because of the high number of miles/kilometres they drive, then you would ask yourselves the questions:
Can we reduce the amount that they drive? – usually a management initiative. This might involve, for example, reorganising territories in a sales organisation or optimising load-carrying capacity in a commercial vehicle operation.
Can some of the journeys be on train or airplane? – also usually a management initiative. Travel by rail and air is much safer, so can some longer journeys be made on public transport?
If for whatever reason, the risk can’t be eliminated, even in part, or substituted, then there are a number of things to consider to reduce the risk to an acceptable level:
Implement and audit effective fatigue management policies, including specifying the maximum length of working day (including driving and commuting), how often breaks from driving should be taken, and how long these breaks should be.
Implement route planning and scheduling training, or route and schedule journeys for employees, to ensure that their time driving is minimised.
Teach employees how to achieve the correct seating position in their vehicle, as poor posture will lead to the early onset of fatigue.
In this example, most of the initiatives are management / organisational ones, even though they are based on an individual employee driving risk assessment.
If your interventions are not addressing the underlying root causes, how can they ever be effective at reducing the risk?
The most important element of the ‘do’ phase of an effective work-related road risk management program is to understand the underlying reasons/root causes of the risks employees face when driving. Once you know this, you can select the appropriate management or driver-focused intervention using the ‘hierarchy of control’. Always make sure that the intervention is focused on the root cause of the identified risk.
Management interventions are usually more effective at bringing about a sustainable reduction in the risk profile and a subsequent reduction in your collision and claim rates.
Always remember that the most effective way to manage identified risks may be to make changes to operational or management practices rather than trying to do this through safe driving policies or, for example, training.
Line Managers and Supervisors play a crucial role in the effectiveness of your road safety program and should be at the heart of it, engaging with employees on a regular basis, being seen to drive safely and follow the rules, and ultimately helping to develop the on-road safety culture.