Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of fatalities on the job, according to NIOSH. Three workers are killed every day while driving, riding in, or working around motor vehicles in traffic. Truckers have the highest annual death rates, followed by garbage collectors and sheriffs or bailiffs.

If any of your employees drive a vehicle as part of their job responsibilities, they are at risk. That’s why NIOSH has issued an alert, “Preventing Worker Injuries and Deaths from Traffic-Related Motor Vehicle Crashes.” The entire text is available in NIOSH Pub. No. 98-142 at


NIOSH suggests:

  • Establishing and enforcing a written policy requiring drivers and passengers to use seat belts.

  • Providing seat belts for the driver and every passenger in every company vehicle.

  • Conducting driver’s license background checks on prospective employee drivers before they are hired.

  • Ensuring that drivers comply with designated speed limits, and prohibiting workers from driving on the job when they are fatigued.

  • Making sure employees in construction and maintenance zones wear high-visibility clothing and use appropriate barriers and traffic control.

  • Training drivers in safe driving practices and proper use of vehicle safety features.

  • Establishing written procedures for proper maintenance of vehicles.

  • Equipping vehicles with the latest safety features, such as anti-lock brakes.

Get with the program

In addition to these precautions, it’s important to provide classroom and hands-on training to your drivers. Employees may groan that they’ve been driving for 20 years and don’t need additional training, but remind them that they are more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than from any other hazard on the job.

Your training program should:

  • Review the rules of the road and traffic signs.

  • Discuss defensive driving techniques, including making turns and using turn signals, rules regarding the right-of-way, and how to avoid impaired or speeding drivers.

  • Cover tailgating, blind spots, and passing techniques.

  • Discuss speeding and the consequences of receiving a ticket. (The National Safety Council says that the driver error most responsible for motor-vehicle fatalities is speeding).

  • Review substance abuse and alcohol use and their effects on driving.

  • Explain how to handle bad weather conditions, such as rain, snow, or ice.

  • Tell your employees what to do in case of an emergency, such as non-functioning brakes or a sudden tire blowout.

  • Teach your drivers techniques to cope with “road rage.”

Checking up

Once your employees have completed their training sessions and have passed written and hands-on driving tests, follow up every now and then to make sure your training has a lasting effect. At Ryder Truck, supervisors conduct monthly “check rides,” where they ride along with the driver and make note of any improper driving techniques.

You already know that using seat belts and good driving techniques saves lives for non-job-related driving. Apply the same knowledge to the workplace. You can help save lives and reduce costs by taking some basic and effective precautions now.

Sidebar: Ready for the road?

By Daniel Patrick O'Brien, MS, CSP The basics

  • Tires in good condition, air level checked frequently;

  • State inspection stickers current;

  • Current tax, title, and insurance information available in a clearly marked envelope;

  • Spare tire inflated, complete with jack and necessary tools to change the tire;

  • All service items current such as oil change, lube, air filters, fluid levels, etc.

  • Basic hoses and belts visually inspected for obvious problems.

Limited emergency tools

  • Communications is probably the single most important item to have in the vehicle. Being able to call for help is critical.

  • Water is high on the priority list, and not just because you can’t live without it. Whether it’s putting out small fires, addressing engine overheating, or flushing your eyes, a jug of water can be helpful.

  • Safety glasses and work gloves should be used for just about any roadside emergency. Whether it’s changing a tire or looking around the engine to find what’s wrong, safety glasses and gloves offer additional protection.

  • A flashlight, emergency flares, and a small first aid kit are also useful items in vehicle emergency situations.

Added protection

  • Battery jumper cables; basic tools such as hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, an assortment of wrenches; small rolls of duct tape and bailing wire, and extra electrical fuses;

  • Extra clothing such as coats, hats, mittens, and socks;

  • An old blanket that can be used for protection from the cold or to keep your clothes clean while lying on the ground;

  • Miscellaneous items like a shovel, tissue paper, high-visibility vest, and rain poncho make a safer, more comfortable emergency;

  • Personalized items like medication, extra contacts or glasses, any special food or snack you typically require are also helpful.

Daniel Patrick O’Brien, MS, CSP, is safety manager for Engineered Carbons, Inc., Borger, Texas. A member and past president of ASSE’s Panhandle Chapter, Dan currently serves as secretary for the North American Product Safety & Regulatory Committee for the International Carbon Black Association.