40% of Workplace Fatalities are Transportation Related

May 10, 2010

Transportation incidents continue to be the No. 1 cause of on-the job deaths, a trend that has been the case since 1992, according to the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE). In fact, in 2008, 40 percent of all workplace fatalities were transportation related, the association noted.

“These crashes are preventable. With roadway construction up and the summer travel season just around the corner we must all do our part to prevent roadway crashes,” said Portland, Oregon’s Lee Briney, ASSE Columbia-Willamette Chapter President. “What is stunning is that the overall price tag for transportation crashes in the U.S. each year is $170 billion dollars (NHTSA) and we all end up paying for it. Those costs represent about $1,000 per person each year for property damage (streets, lampposts, guardrails, emergency services, court costs, insurance administration and much more). This figure doesn’t take into account the extreme grief caused by the loss of a loved one. There is no way to calculate that cost.”

Briney recently met with several trucking, state and federal officials to discuss the high, tangible and intangible costs of car crashes . She joined several officials including ASSE’s David Parsons, Oregon’s May Trucking Company Senior Vice President David R. Jostad, Oregon Department of Transportation’s Motor Carrier Division’s Investigative/Safety/Federal Programs Department Head David McKane, Jubitz Travel Center COO Mark Gram and Sgt. John Naccarato of the Clackamus, Ore., police department, to address this issue.

Briney went on to note that businesses alone pay about $60 billion per year in medical care, legal expenses, property damages, lost productivity and increased workers’ compensation, social security, and private health and disability insurance costs as well as for the administration of all these programs. The average vehicle crash cost to an employer, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), is $16,500. When a worker is involved in an on-the-job crash with injuries the cost to the employer is $74,000. Costs can exceed $500,000 when a fatality is involved — many times the employees did not cause these accidents, they were the victims.

A recent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) report estimates that the cost of a police-reported crash involving trucks with a gross weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds averaged $91,112; a crash with trucks with two or three trailers involved were the rarest, but their cost was $289,549. The cost per nonfatal injury crash averaged $195,258 and fatal crashes cost an estimated $3,604,518 per crash.

“Many businesses have driver safety programs that protect their workers,” Briney said. These programs not only make good business sense but also help reduce the risks faced by employees and their families while protecting the bottom line.”

Those programs include: garnering senior management commitment and employee involvement; developing written policies and procedures (including seat belt use); regularly checking the safety of the motor vehicles; crash reporting and investigation; vehicle selection, maintenance and inspection; driver training and communication; not requiring workers to drive irregular hours or far beyond their normal working hours; developing work schedules that allow employees to obey speed limits and to follow applicable hours-of-service regulations; enforcing mandatory seat belt use; and banning cell phone use or texting while driving; not allowing employees to conduct work while driving, and more.

Safety professionals also provide information on:

  • Securing materials for transport. L oose objects can slide around or come out of the vehicle and become airborne;
  • Requiring seat belt use. Each year seatbelts save more than 12,000 lives and prevent 325,000 serious injuries;
  • Distracted driving is a factor in 25 percent to 30 percent of all traffic crashes;
  • Driving under the influence. DUIs are involved in 40 percent of all fatal crashes;
  • Fatigued driving causes about 100,000 crashes a year;
  • Aggressive driving — speeding, tailgating, failure to signal, and running a red light — can be deadly;
  • Young drivers. Under federal law 16-year-old workers are not allowed to drive as part of their job;
  • 17-year-olds may drive for work but only under strictly limited circumstances. Some state laws may be more restrictive.

Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, Ill.-based ASSE is a professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, health care and education.

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