A Firm Grip: Best Practices for Trucking Industry Safety

Article excerpt

For truck drivers, the most common workers' compensation injury usually goes something like this:

On a cold, rainy morning, a trucker pulls off the road for breakfasts and a rest. He puts down the CB microphone, opens the door and swings his leather-soled boots to the top step of his cab. Before he knows it, he's on the ground--but not on his feet. This trucker has just become a workers' compensation statistic.

Any number of factors could have caused the trucker's fall--a loose wire wrapped around his heel; a pointy toe of his boot catching on the top stair; slipping on the stair tread or the oil-slicked pavement; or a miscalculated jump from the cab to the ground.

It may not surprise you, therefore, that the biggest cause of workers' compensation accidents for truckers is not on-the-road accidents or improper cargo lifting. Nearly 35 percent of the time, according to CIGNA Property & Casualty's Loss Control Services, it's some version of the above scenario--drivers slipping and falling when getting in and out of their vehicles.

In the late 1996, the company conducted a statistical loss analysis to understand the causes of injury-producing incidents in the trucking industry. In addition to analyzing three years' worth of trucker-related claims, a team of loss control and claims specialists conducted a bechmarking study to identify workers' compensation best practices in the trucking industry. The study produced some interesting results that should influence loss control efforts and help trucking companies convince their drivers about the importance of safety.

A Closer Look

Of the 2,500 workers' compensation trucking claims filed from 1993 to 1996 (950 of them exceeding $ 1,000), the largest number of claims, 34.8 percent, involved slips and falls. The rest involved lifting and overexertion (22.7 percent), vehicle accidents (16.1 percent), employees being struck by or striking against objects (16.1 percent) and other miscellaneous injures, such as cuts and burns (10.3 percent).

The high incidence of slipping and falling on the job warranted further attention. Driver falls occurred most often (35.1 percent of the time) at rest stops, fueling stations and restaurants. The remainder took place at customer locations (32.2 percent) and on their company's premises (31.2 percent). Across all locations, falls occurred from tractors (34.8 percent), trailers (25.8 percent) and on the ground (28.2 percent).

The study also examined what truckers were doing when they fell. The results showed that they were either getting in or out of the cab (31.3 percent), walking or climbing (24 percent), handling freight (13.7 percent) or climbing in or out of trailers (8.6 percent).

Lessons Learned

To determine the most effective ways to reduce driver injuries, CIGNA identified trucking customers whose loss experience was considered "best in class." These companies, representing a wide variety of large operators and truck sizes transporting all kinds of goods, had excellent loss histories and proactive safety management activities.

Through interviews with the risk managers, safety directors or supervisors of these companies, we identified the following "best practices" that had positive effects on the number and type of workers' compensation injuries:

Written safety programs--These initiatives stressed injury prevention and detailed necessary safe work practices.

Strong disciplinary procedures--Although the methods varied, successful programs enforced safety procedures strictly.

Strong incentive programs--A variety of rewards, from monthly pizza parties to bonuses of up to 25 percent of the base yearly wage, provided effective incentives for safe behavior. One company went so far as to split 50 percent of their workers' compensation dividend with the employees. Training and overall fleet safety were measured in many incentive programs. …