Five Ways to Improve Trucking Safety

March 30, 2011
Follow these five tips to create a culture of safety for your logistics and transportation operations

In the new book Safe By Accident, authors Judy Agnew and Aubrey Daniels argue that the solution to improving workplace safety lies not just in the latest engineering, physics, or chemistry advancements, but in the science of human behavior.

Based on decades of research and work with many global corporations, Agnew and Daniels reveal how many companies are “safe by accident” because they focus too heavily on lagging indicators, such as low incident rates. According to the authors, going a month, a year, or even several years without an incident is more likely a function of sheer luck than a predictor of a safe organization.

To help logistics managers create a “culture of safety,” the book identifies science-based solutions for what to do instead. Here are the top five tips for increasing trucking safety:

1. Don’t base safety incentives on incident rates: Having zero incidents is the ultimate goal of safety, but this flawed system unintentionally rewards luck, can encourage employees to not report incidents to avoid losing the incentive, and may result in reinforcing unsafe and unethical behavior. Instead, an incentive system should be based on motivating employees to engage in pinpointed safe behaviors.

2. Understand the value of near misses: Whether on the road, in an office, or in a factory, there should be a prescribed way to conduct work in a safe, efficient manner. Any deviation from that should be classified as a near miss. Encourage employees to observe deviations in their own behavior and that of other employees. Near misses provide valuable information about training, supervision, and teamwork.

3. Mistakes should not be punished: Employees often fail to report safety concerns because they fear reprisal. Punishing unsafe behavior creates a culture of cover-ups where employees play the blame game.

4. Understand that checklists are not full-proof: Checklists can become an important tool for developing sound behavior and producing long-lasting change, but sometimes people assume the very implementation is all that is required to change behavior – it will only result in temporary change. Items should be observed apart from the checklist to ensure quality and safety. In addition, modify your checklist by conducting post-mortems on projects and procedures to pinpoint tasks, roles and responsibilities more specifically than before.

5. Ditch inspirational safety signage: Without the clutter of signs that have no meaningful information, employees may be less likely to ignore important signage. In order to maximize effectiveness, use only compliance signs that direct specific behavior (“Shut Off Engines. Set Brakes. Chock Wheels.”) and informational signs when appropriate and relevant.

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