Distraction and fatigue lead to truck rollovers

Picture 1Seatbelts likely played a major part in leaving workers shaken up, but otherwise uninjured according to near miss reports of four crewcab rollovers following this year’s planting season.

Transportation to and from the worksite continues to be the most hazardous part of working in the forests. During the 2010 interior tree planting season, several silviculture companies experienced significant motor vehicle accidents. The incidents varied in severity, but every situation possessed significant potential for serious losses or fatalities. Some of the reported incidents included the following: – A driver was using a mobile device while driving, and nearly drove into a ditch despite warning from the passengers.

– A driver fell asleep at the wheel with two passengers in the vehicle, and left the road on a corner. All of the workers were transported to hospital, but no serious injuries were suffered.

– A driver reached for a radio and failed to negotiate a curve while operating a full crew cab on the highway. The driver overcorrected, and the vehicle hit the soft shoulder and rolled over. All workers were taken to hospital, and several minor injuries occurred. Immediately prior to the accident the passengers had experienced difficulty securing one of the seatbelts, but had taken the time to correct the situation before departing. This action may have saved a life. In each of the described situations, the companies investigated the incident and discovered weaknesses in their training programs and company policies. Although no critical injuries were reported, the circumstances of the incidents clearly indicate that fatalities may have been narrowly avoided. These situations clearly signal that there are important lessons about vehicle safety and driver training that must be learned by the industry in order to prevent needless accidents. Many companies have taken the initiative of reporting their experiences with vehicle accidents in the hope of helping others avoid similar or more serious incidents.

There are many important factors affecting vehicles safety in silviculture, and important challenges for companies to consider as they train their employees and review their driving policies and practices. – Because of the high employee turnover rate and heavy reliance upon younger workers in the silviculture industry, companies must utilize strong driver training programs.

– Driving requires focus and energy. The extreme physical nature of tree planting places significant demands on workers, and fatigue can impair the ability of a driver to respond effectively in emergency situations.

– The seasonal cycles of silviculture increases pressure to maintain production and finish contracts. Workers may feel rushed to begin their day, or be excited to end the day or season. These factors can influence their state of mind, and create distractions for drivers.

Tips for Employers and Drivers

Employers should remind workers not to be in a rush, and to remain focused on doing their job in the safest manner possible. The end of a contract may be the most exciting part of the season, but is also the point where fatigue and distractions may be highest. Drivers must not be distracted from their job. Companies must have clear policies regarding handheld devices, and should enforce them vigorously. Passengers must ensure they do not distract drivers with loud music or excessive conversation.

Radio mikes should be located in a position on the dash where it is easy for drivers to reach without looking for them, and without having to change their driving position. Checking that the mike is in the correct position should be part of pre-trip inspection practices.

Radio communications must be kept short and to the point. Drivers should pull off the road at a safe location if they need to engage in longer discussions.

Co-pilots can be designated to assist drivers with key tasks, such as changing channels on the radios.

Co-pilots can also monitor driver performance to ensure they are not affected by fatigue.

Drivers must be monitored, and increased training must be provided when performance does not meet expectations. Companies must be prepared to adjust their policies and training programs in response to close calls, including incidents that occur elsewhere in the industry.

Training Considerations Workers without experience on dirt roads or with large trucks cannot be expected to learn on the job or by simply observing other drivers. Proper training consists of detailed education and instruction, and the trainer must observe workers¡¦ demonstrate their ability to operate a vehicle on forestry road conditions and perform key tasks such as pre-trip inspections and emergency manoeuvres.

Proper driver training should teach drivers about fatigue and other forms of impairment, and how these factors can impact their driving abilities.

Back-up drivers should always be trained in order to ensure that replacement drivers are available when primary drivers are sick or injured, or too fatigued to safely operate a vehicle.

The personnel that deliver driver training must be properly qualified to impart skills and knowledge to other employees. Trainers should have extensive experience driving on resource roads, and should ideally have completed a course specifically aimed at providing them with the ability to instruct and evaluate others in resource road driving.

Driver Training and Vehicle Safety Resources The WSCA has developed a driver training course (Resource Road Light Truck Driver Training) aimed specifically at the needs of the silviculture industry and its unique workforce. The course includes in-field demonstrations and competency assessments. Companies can have their own staff certified to provide this training in their own workplace. Information is available at www.wscacourses.ca or by contacting the WSCA at (604) 736-8660.

Additional information on vehicle safety in forestry and applicable regulations can be found through the BC Forest Safety Council at www.bcforestsafe.org/forestry_trucksafe.html