People who use vehicles for work – such as messengers, truck drivers, social workers and journalists – operate in a mobile workplace and as such, road safety plays an important role in occupational health and safety.
This was the main theme discussed by President of the Barbados Road Safety Association, Sharmane Roland Bowen, as she delivered an Occupational Safety and Health Week presentation last Friday, on Safety in Mobile Workplaces.
She explained that someone who drives for work “includes any person who is at the time carrying out duties in a vehicle on instructions from their employer. So, if you are driving a company vehicle… or personal vehicle where you receive a travel allowance from your employer, you are driving for work.”
Roland-Bowen argued that organisations should establish road safety policies which would explain the company’s position on issues relevant to the mobile workplaces, such as use of cell phones, health conditions that may affect driving performance, fatigue management and drug and alcohol use while in the mobile workplace.
She stressed, however, that for such policies to work, employers and business managers had to take a leading role in their implementation.
“Whether you are a large or small business, private or public… nothing can happen without commitment from top management… If management is not there, you’re going to be
nowhere,” she said, emphasising the need for leaders of organisations to be actively involved, and to ensure that plans were carried through.
Roland Bowen added that, when these policies were not enforced, preventable accidents occurred. Offering examples, she noted: “In Barbados, common causes of accidents included lack of attention, which could be caused by any distraction from cell phones to applying makeup; misjudging clearance, which could be affected by drugs, alcohol or fatigue; and loss of control, which could be mitigated by appropriate vehicle maintenance.”
These accidents, in turn, often have negative repercussions for business, including increases in insurance premiums, vehicles being off the road for repairs, bad publicity for companies and in some cases, civil suits. Roland Bowen said, that to avoid this was simple – managers should ensure that staff are well aware of road safety plans and highlight the penalties and rewards.
“You set out your rules at the beginning … check their references, check their record, do an assessment of their driving skills… defensive driving training … these are all things you would put into your road safety strategy,” Roland Bowen said, adding that first aid kits, visibility jackets and fire extinguishers could also be necessary, depending on the nature of the job.
Additional information on the Barbados Road Safety Association may be obtained at www. barbadosroads.net. (BGIS)