Distracted Driving Dangers

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 3300 people were killed and 387,000 injured in motor vehicle accidents connected to distracted driving. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts a driver’s attention from the primary task of operating a motor vehicle. Distracted driving involves any of the following activities:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Reading, including maps or email
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio

A lot of attention is placed on the role of smart phones in distracted driving accidents. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable as texting and social media sites (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter…etc.) have become a primary source of communication. Added with the relative inexperience of operating a multi-ton vehicle it becomes a recipe for disaster. Using a cell or smart phone while driving provides the following distractions:

  • Visual – an individual takes their eyes off the road
  • Manual – an individual takes their hand off the wheel
  • Cognitive – an individual takes their mind off of the road and is not concentrating on operating the motor vehicle

Many people believe they are multi-tasking. However, according to the National Safety Council, the idea that a person can multi-task is really a myth. The human brain does not perform different cognitive tasks at the same time. In reality, the brain switches between tasks until a function can be accomplished. The split second that a driver loses focus can lead to deadly consequences. For example, a vehicle traveling at 55mph will cover 80 feet in one second. If something unexpected occurs in that brief second that you are paying attention to your smart phone or attempting to answer a text, it will take between 3-5 seconds to move your foot from the accelerator pedal to the brake. In that 3 to 5 seconds, your vehicle will travel a distance of 240 to 400 feet. For this reason, a person operating a motor vehicle must pay particular attention to roadway conditions and what is happening around them. Conditions on the road may change rapidly and drivers should not be concentrating on anything but operating their motor vehicle.

At Elite Contracting Group our employees spend a lot of time in their vehicles, traveling from one job site to another. Since safety is our primary concern, we require employees to pull off the road and safely stop their vehicles before placing or accepting a phone call. Additionally, our policies prohibit taking notes, reading or answering email, or texting while driving. Since distracted driving is a serious risk to our employees, we utilize traffic barriers and traffic attenuators to protect our personnel from being struck by inattentive drivers. Please help us protect our workers by paying attention to warning signs, slowing down when approaching work areas with flashing lights, and when possible move over a lane if possible to give our crews room to work. Currently, over a hundred roadway workers are killed each year on our nation’s highways and roads, and another 20,000 are injured. Here at Elite Contracting Group we urge drivers to pay attention to road conditions and designated work zones to keep our workers safe. For parents, we urge the installation of phone apps that prohibit younger and less experienced drivers from operating their cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. Let’s make sure all our workers go home safely to their families.

“Do We See When We Look?”

Our sense of sight plays a critical role in ensuring we remain safe at work.  Without our sense of sight there are many tasks that become either impossible or not feasible to complete safely.  In order to understand our sense of sight we must stop thinking of our sense of sight as only our eyes.  To help illustrate this point let’s compare our sense of sight to a video detection system utilized in the security field.

In the security field we use video detection systems that can detect when someone is trying to access a certain area from which they are normally restricted from.  Although they are called video detection systems, they rely on more than just the cameras to produce useful information.  These systems also utilize analytics. Without both systems operating correctly and in concert with one another, the video detection system will fail.  This is the same for our sense of sight where our eyes and brain must work correctly and together for us to understand what is happening.

Video detection systems rely on video camera to capture images in its field of view. In reality, the cameras are not seeing anything.  The image that is captured by the camera is processed through the use of analytics that interpret the image.  This is also true of the human eye.  The human eye produces an image of what is in its field of view but just like the video camera it isn’t seeing anything.  In other words, while our eyes are important they are just one part of our sense of sight.  In order for us to know what is happening our brains must process the image.

One critical part of our sense of sight that is most often overlooked is the understanding that while our brains process images, they are only capable of processing the information based on what we have learned throughout our lives.  Our brain process is how analytics work.  Analytics are only as good as the programming.  It is the programming that allows them to be able to detect whether an object is moving towards a certain area or away from it.  If the analytics are programmed correctly, they can even differentiate between a bird, deer or human.  But the key is the analytics have the knowledge (programming).

This process is what we mean when we say “Do we see when we look?”.  If we have healthy eyes we can look at what is going on, but are we understanding and processing what we see?  In order for us to identify hazards in the workplace, we must first have the knowledge to recognize the potential hazards.  When employees are unaware or not trained on how to identify hazards in their workplace they may look at the hazard but fail to recognize or see it as a hazard which can lead to preventable injuries.

At Elite Contracting Group, we have invested heavily in developing our own environmental, health and safety training. This training is specific to the type of work we complete and the hazards that are associated with it.  By training employees on how to identify hazards we are not only giving them more knowledge but ensuring they recognize hazards faster when they are looking around the work area.  This quicker recognition of hazards leads to preventing injuries.  We understand that when employees are trained properly, they will not just be looking around the job but seeing what is actually going on and that is something we can all live with.


“Safety Always”

Who’s Responsible for Safety?

When we talk about who is responsible for safety every employee’s response should be, “I am”.  Unfortunately for too many companies the response, “I am” is seldom heard.  Instead many employees wrongly assume that their safety department is responsible for their safety.  So how do we change this response? How do we lead the effort to ensure all employees take their safety seriously and speak out when they observe hazards while completing their work?  How do we educate employees so they understand that their silence when they observe an at-risk behavior or other hazards in the field is their consent to increase the likelihood that they or their co-workers will be injured on the job?


The simple truth of the matter is there is not a quick fix to accomplish this goal.  There is no simple checklist that we can run through and in a month’s time change our employee’s attitude towards safety.  Nor is there a safety program we can buy off the shelf and implement that will accomplish this for us.  In order to accomplish this goal, companies must understand that creating a safety culture where employees take responsibility for their and their co-workers safety will take a large amount of effort, time and patience. Fortunately, we can look at companies that have successful safety programs and what framework they utilized.


It is not a secret that quality safety programs are not only fully supported by their executive management teams, but demonstrated by them as well.  Executive buy-in is the first step towards a successful safety program. It is one of the notable areas that all successful safety programs share.  Once the executive management team has accepted and implemented the program, the next step is the get buy in from the workforce.


In every workforce (regardless of industry) there’s a wealth of knowledge.  When we listen to employees and allow them to help shape our safety program we are tapping into that wealth of knowledge.  This helps ensure we have safety policies that will work, but also helps demonstrate to the workforce that they matter, and that safety is part of their job.  When employees believe their foreman, supervisors, managers and executive team truly care about them as individuals they will care about what management has to say about safety and become active participants in the safety program.


At Elite Contracting Group we have developed our safety program utilizing the knowledge from other companies that have established successful safety programs.  Our executive team understands the importance of safety and fully supports the program.  This is backed up by the investments we continually make in training our employees to ensure our employees have the know how to complete all tasks in a safe manner.  We believe that the most important part of our safety program is our commitment to engage our employees on safety issues and build relationships where all employees feel they are part of our team and that we care about them on a personal level.


These efforts have proven to be successful.  We continue to lower our experience modifier rate (EMR), worker’s compensation claims and OSHA recordable rate.  It has led to a safety culture where all employees at Elite understand they have a duty to act when they see an unsafe condition and speak up.  If an employee feel there is a safer way to complete a certain task, they speak up.  Our workforce is empowered to take their own and their co-workers safety personally. This is what makes our safety program successful.


“Safety Always”

“It’s all in the Details”

There is a popular old saying, “Don’t major in the minors and minor in the majors”.  This phrase can sometimes make its way into the safety realm.  Yet, when it does we must be careful on how we utilize it as it can too often be misinterpreted as not worrying about the details.  At the end of the day when accident investigations are completed it is not uncommon to find out that the contributing factors come out of the details.

When we get the details correct we increase our safety.  In 2002 the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report highlighting the importance of paying attention to the details.  During a ten year period, from 1992-2002, the NTSB determined that maintenance work lead to 171 aircraft accidents that resulted in fatalities and another 119 aircraft accidents that lead to injuries.  What is even more interesting in the data is the fact that 18 fatal aircraft accidents during this period were the result of reversing the installation of a part where 32 fatal aircraft accident were caused by using the wrong part.  If those completing this work would have given more attention to the details countless lives could have been saved.

Overall the aviation industry has high safety standards and with good reason.  Running out of fuel in a car is not as risky as running out of fuel in an airplane.  While some differences are obvious additional areas translate well into other industries.  Take for instance the crash of Air Midwest Flight 5481, this flight crashed just 37 seconds after leaving Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.  A total of 21 people including two pilots lost their lives that day.  Following the investigation NTSB found that the turnbuckles that control tension to the elevator cables has been set incorrectly.  This mistake (lack of detail) limited the pilot’s control of the aircraft causing it to crash.

Regardless if it is highway construction, power generation or the security industry, these same mistakes result in numerous injuries and fatalities in the workplace every year.  For example, an employee is tasked with using an angle grinder and incorrectly adjusted (tighten) the nut.  This caused the disc to fly off while operating at 8,000 rpm’s striking and injuring the employee.

Not paying attention to the details resulted in an employee at a power generation station to fall to their death when they forgot to tie off to an anchor point before climbing out onto a structural beam.  Both injuries and fatalities could have been prevented if the employees had paid attention to the details of their task to ensure their equipment was operating properly.

So why are we as employers and employees susceptible to forgetting about the details?  The best way to understand this is to look at a concept developed by Gordon Dupont back in 1993, known as the Dirty Dozen. The Dirty Dozen contains the twelve most common human errors that cause or contribute to an accident.  They are; lack of communication, distraction, lack of resources, stress, complacency, lack of teamwork, pressure, lack of awareness, lack of knowledge, fatigue, lack of assertiveness and norms (workplace culture).

Looking back at the first example involving the angle grinder, we find that a complacency was the underlining cause of the accident.  In the second example, investigation revealed the underlining causes of the accident as pressure (to get the job finished) and complacency.  By paying attention to the details and understanding the mostly likely causes of human error, we improve our safety records regardless of the industry we operate in.

Our safety program at Elite Contracting Group believes in getting the details correct.  We look at the details of how we perform our work and adapt countermeasures to combat Gordon Dupont’s Dirty Dozen (human errors) to ensure that we better prevent accidents and injuries from occurring.


“The Ripple Effect”

“The Ripple Effect”

Most safety professionals like to cover the consequences of an accident and while it is important to understand the initial consequences of an accident, we could be better served to view the aftermath of an accident in terms of the ripple effect.  Just like the ripples that a rock creates skipping across the pond, so do the actions and choices we make at work.

Let’s look at a hypothetical situation.  While working on a project John has to access the roof of a single story building.  The roof he is accessing is flat and the area where John is working is in the middle of the roof, so there is no need for him to have on fall protection.  However, as John completes his work the project changes.  These changes will now require John to work right next to the leading edge of the roof where there is little more than a 24” knee wall.  Now John knows he needs fall protection, he has been trained on when the equipment is necessary and how to properly setup and wear the personal protection equipment (PPE).  Instead of taking the time to wear and setup his PPE he makes a choice to forgo the necessary PPE.

While completing his work John slips and falls from the roof landing on his back.  This is the first ripple for his choice.  John’s choice to not wear his PPE has resulted in him being injured.  Now we start to see more ripples as the employees working in the area drop there tools and immediately rush over to help John.  John’s poor choice has not only resulted in him being injured but has also stopped all productivity at the jobsite.

At this point there are two roads we are going to travel down.  On the first road we are going to look at the ripples that could affect John personally.  Then we are going to go down the second road and see how the ripples effect everyone else at the company.

The good news for John is that he is going to survive his accident.  The bad news is his recovery is going to take a couple of months.  Let’s say that John is out of work and is talking with the insurance company about workers compensation and they decide that because he made the choice of not using his PPE the insurance company has denied his claim.  If this happens then John will not receive any compensation while he is out of work, but he will also be personally responsible for his medical bills.  This takes an effect of John financially, he is not able to cover his bills and he is out of work.   This could also take an effect on him emotionally because of the lack of income and the bills coming in.  John’s choice had greater consequences than he originally thought.

John’s employer and his co-workers will all be affected by the accident as well.  John’s accident consumed valuable company resources and this is the first ripple that affects the company it can be a rather large one.  The time that the project was shut down due the accident can never be recovered.  To add to this loss of time an investigation into why John’s accident occurred must be completed.  This investigation will require more man hours to be lost while employees are giving a statement on the accident.

Since John is out of work now his employer is going to have no choice but to pay overtime to their employees to make up for being a man short.  This will cost his employer even more money by paying overtime rates and spending more time on the job than projected.  Still these ripples are just the first ones to reach the company.  In the long term ripples from this accident will affect the company’s safety record, their insurance rates and their ability to be the successful bidder on future projects.  This could lead to not only less profit for the company but layoffs of employees.

The ripples from John’s accident could not only affected him, but his co-workers and employer.  This is why as a Company it is not only important to establish a safety program but to establish a safety cultural.  Employees need to be empowered to stop work when they feel it is unsafe.  Employees must be recognized when they take the time to complete the task in a safe manner.  Workers must be willing to talk with their co-workers/employer when they observe them engaging in unsafe practices.

It is preciously because of these benefits that Elite’s Management team is not only willing to but encourages feedback from our teams in the field.  Our Management team never wants an employee to think that it is acceptable to forgo utilizing any piece of safety equipment to save a little bit of time.  It is this commitment to safety that leads to our constant improvement in our safety culture.






Christopher Newport University Symposium on Homeland Security Registration

Christopher Newport University’s Center for American Studies and Elite Contracting Group are proud to present the 5th annual Symposium on Homeland Security & Defense: Enhancing Resilience through Public-Private Partnerships, to be hosted on the CNU campus February 10-11, 2016

Make sure to catch the early-bird registration for the Christopher Newport Universities Symposium on Homeland Security and Defense co hosted by CNU and Elite Contracting Group!  Early-bird registration ends on January 11th, 2016, then regular registration opens up.

The cost of early-bird registration is $125 for private sector and academia; $95 for government and active military.  The registration includes:

  • Two Continental Breakfasts
  • Two Keynote Luncheons
  • Opening Reception (food and 1 free drink)

Featuring many of the nation’s top government and private sector leaders in infrastructure security, this groundbreaking symposium will begin to tackle some of the toughest challenges in infrastructure security for the years ahead.

For more information click here




Elite Becomes a Control4 Hospitality Dealer!

Elite is pleased to announce we have become an authorized Control4 Dealer, with a specialized focus in the hospitality market for the Mid-Atlantic Region. Control4, a leading global provider of smart home solutions, works with a select group of highly trained and specially-certified dealers around the world who have the expertise, resources and technical acumen to support automation projects in the hotelier industry. “All of us here at Control4 are excited to be working closely with Elite Contracting Group on specialized Hospitality projects,” said David Phillips, Director of Hospitality and MDU Sales, Control4. “Elite’s unique skill set and broad project portfolio in large scale IT and complex infrastructure projects is indicative of their future success in applying those same efforts to the Smart Hotel sector.”

Elite offers comprehensive single source project management and support from design, to installation, all the way through lifetime maintenance support. Our solutions deliver an exceptional experience for your guests by giving them complete smart home automation at the touch of a single button. Guests can control the shades, lights, temperature, TV and music—even schedule wake-up calls, request valet service and more—from any one intuitive interfaces on touch screens and handheld remotes. These solutions also drive cost savings to the bottom line of hotel operations. Elite is excited about the new endeavor with Control4 and the continuation of our business growth as a result.

Check out our micro-site on the Control4 website!


Elite Launches a Facebook Page

Elite Contracting Group has created a Facebook page!  Like the page for all the latest news in our industry to show up on your newsfeed and make sure to invite all of your colleagues and friends to like it too. We are excited to gain even more of a social presence in our Region and beyond!

Deer-Vehicle Collisions-Falls Biggest Safety Threat

Fall finally returned last week. With its arrival comes not only a drop in temperature but pumpkin flavored everything, Friday night high school football, fall foliage and

deerchili. However, there is one change that fall brings with it that many of us may not have thought about quite yet. During the fall is when the largest number of DVCs, aka deer-vehicle collisions occurs. In order to protect both wildlife and ourselves we must first recognize the seriousness of this hazard in which we face.

Deer-vehicle collisions are more serious than most people realize. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions occur every year in the United States, causing over 3.6 billion dollars’ worth of damage. However, this pales in comparison to the estimated 200 fatalities and tens of thousands of injuries that also occur during these collisions. Many may also be surprised to learn that State Farm Auto Insurance ranked Virginia in the top 10 highest risk States in the country. Now that we understand the seriousness of deer-vehicle collisions let’s see if we can expand our understanding of the hazard and controls we must put in place to ensure our safety.

In order to keep ourselves safe we must recognize the hazard. This requires everyone to reduce their distractions while driving. Including putting down the cell phone, not texting while driving, limiting our changing of radio stations and even not eating behind the wheel. Cutting down on our distractions will allow us to react quicker to a possible deer collision. Along with cutting down on distractions we must also ensure we are properly rested prior to driving and that we don’t consume alcohol, medicine or drugs that can slow down our reaction time.

Now when it comes to deer activity levels they are normally more active at dawn and dusk which just happens to be when our vision is the most compromised. Therefore, in order to counter this we must ensure we are paying extra attention to not only what is in front of us but what is off to our sides. Luckily, DOT and VDOT have made great strides in increasing the number of deer crossing signs across the state that warn drivers where there is either a high deer population or a history of deer-vehicle collisions.

So now that we are better able to understand the hazard we will discuss how we can avoid collisions with deer. Although DOT and VDOT have increased the number of deer crossing signs it is important to remember that deer are pack animals and tend to utilize the same trails throughout the year. What this means to us is that if a deer crosses in front of your vehicle you should slow down and be on the lookout for other deer. It also means we should make a mental note of where we see deer on our normal driving routes and start paying closer attention to them.

Another way to avoid collisions with deer is to modify our driving routes. Deer are more prone to cross rural roads than they are an interstate or divided highway. For some of us the back rural roads may be a shorter route to our destination, but it also comes with an increased risk of encountering deer and other wildlife.

Understanding the hazard and having the ability to recognize the hazard quicker are a great start to ensuring our safety. Unfortunately there are incidents where we may not be able to modify our driving route, we are not allowing ourselves to be distracted and before we know it a deer has run out in front of us. How we handle this situation can literally be a matter of life and dead.

When a deer runs out in front of our vehicle we must remain calm. We will want to avoid the urge to swerve our vehicle around the deer. It is also important that we don’t stare at the deer, because we tend to drive towards what we are looking at. The next thing we will want to do is heavily apply the brakes. Hopefully the sudden declaration will allow us to avoid a collision with the deer. However, if does not many experts and even http://www.wildlifecollisions.ca/hints.htm agree that right before colliding with the deer you let off your brakes. By doing so you will allow your front end to rise and possibly prevent the deer from hitting your windshield.

After a collision with a deer it is just as important to stay calm. You will want to put on your emergency flashers and pull as far off the road way as possible to avoid a secondary accident with another vehicle. If your vehicle is not drivable you will want to get out of the vehicle and off to the shoulder. Once you are in a safe location off the road now you can do ahead and call your local emergency number for most areas that will be 911, where you can report the accident. While waiting for help to arrive do not wander back out in the road or check on the deer. Injured deer can and have caused serious injury to both motorist and hunters alike. Give the animal some room and let law enforcement handle the situation.

Hopefully the information in this article and the many others that will be published in the upcoming weeks will help avoid and reduce the number of deer-vehicles collisions this year. To quote an old safety slogan, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This of course is why we constantly conduct safety training and publish safety topics throughout the year.