The oil industry can be a dangerous one for workers. According to statistics cited on the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) website, “From 2003 to 2010, 823 oil and gas extraction workers were killed on the job - a fatality rate seven times greater than the rate for all U.S. industries.”
Most shocking, however, is that a significant percentage of those on-the-job fatalities occur on the highway. As cited by OSHA’s Safety Hazards Associated with Oil and Gas Extraction Activities page, “Roughly 4 of every 10 workers killed on the job in this industry are killed as a result of a highway vehicle incident.”
This makes vehicle-related highway incidents one of the leading causes of worker deaths in the oil & gas extraction industry. This is particularly worrisome when you consider the volatile nature of the petroleum product that a semi truck in the oil & gas extraction industry carries.
With this in mind, what can employers and employees in this industry do to try and prevent incidents on the road that lead to fatalities?
Here are a few suggestions:
#1: Keep Your Fleet Vehicles Well-Maintained
One basic step in preventing collisions on the road is to keep your company’s fleet vehicles in top working condition. Poor maintenance can be a significant contributing factor to an accident.
For example, worn brakes on a vehicle can compromise its ability to stop. This can cause an accident if the driver has to stop unexpectedly, as the driver won’t be able to stop in time. A bad tire alignment could make the vehicle more difficult to control, resulting in an increased likelihood of a collision.
By keeping fleet vehicles well-maintained, you can limit the risk of a mechanical issue causing an on-the-road fatality.
#2: Establish and Enforce Safe Driving Practices
While mechanical failures from lack of maintenance can be a contributing factor to a vehicle crash, most vehicle accidents can be attributed to human error by the driver. Because of this, it’s vital to establish and rigorously enforce safe driving rules for workers, particularly petrol delivery drivers.
For example, a significant number of highway fatalities are attributed to distracted driving. According to statistics from distraction.gov, “in 2013, 3,154 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.”
Distractions can include things such as:
- Eating food
- Reading maps
- Conversing with passengers
- Operating a phone or radio
Of these distractions, distraction.gov cites texting as the worst, as it “requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver.”
So, a good starting place for preventing on the road accidents is to establish rules that prohibit engaging in distractions such as texting while driving. To reinforce that rule, try to avoid sending text alerts to vehicle operators while they’re driving as well.
Other road safety rules that you may need to enforce include:
- Seat Belt Safety. While using the seat belt is required by law in most states, a reminder policy from the employer can help ensure that drivers use this basic safety device.
- Speed Limit Observance. Another major contributing factor to vehicular accidents, and the fatality of such events, is the speed of the vehicle(s) involved in the collision. The bigger the vehicle, and the faster it’s traveling, the harder it is to stop. Creating a policy of obeying speed limits can vastly increase the safety of your fleet vehicles.
- Limits on Driving Hours. While late-night driving does limit contact with other vehicles on the road, reducing collision risk, driving at all hours of the day and night exhausts drivers, which actually increases their risk of having an accident. The CDC’s website recommends that you “do not require workers to drive irregular hours or far beyond their normal working hours” to limit accident risk.
Creating and enforcing a few key rules for when workers are behind the wheel can go a long way towards reducing risk.
#3: Establish a Safety Training Program
Beyond simply creating a set of rules for drivers, consider establishing a safety course for drivers to attend.
By attending a mandatory safety course, you can reinforce driving rules in the minds of your workers and make sure that they are followed.
#4: Closely Monitor Driver Activities
Enforcing safe driving rules would be impossible without some kind of accurate, reliable information about how drivers are behaving on the road.
Here, the use of a GPS fleet management solution can be enormously helpful. With a GPS vehicle tracker and management software, you can actively monitor your fleet of vehicles, both on the jobsite and on the road.
For example, with GPS tracking, you can check on a vehicle’s current position and speed, which can help establish if the driver is following rules such as obeying the speed limit. Additionally, you can collect important vehicle performance data and statistics that can help you optimize your maintenance scheduling to avoid breakdowns on the road.
Highway safety is of the utmost importance in the oil & gas extraction industry. Not only does it help ensure that workers get to the jobsite safely, it can help avoid highway safety disasters that create public relations nightmares such as an oil or gasoline truck jackknifing on the highway and spilling its payload onto the road.
Hopefully, these tips can help improve the overall safety of your company’s vehicles on the road.
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