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:
- 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.
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.
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.