Workers on wheels at risk in winter (2/7)
February 7, 2011
With the end of winter nowhere in sight -- and transportation still the leading cause of on-the-job deaths in the U.S. -- the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is offering tips for safely navigating treacherous road conditions.
ASSE President Darryl C. Hill says that motorists should be mindful of the many workers “whose vehicles are their offices” – such as law enforcement personnel, snow removal and salt trucks, firefighters, emergency responders, truck drivers and utility workers. These drivers must be on the road, no matter what the weather conditions are.
Any company whose employees drive in areas that experience cold and inclement weather should consider equipping each vehicle with a winter storm kit that includes blankets, a flashlight, cell phone with charger and extra batteries, a shovel, first-aid kit, non-perishable food, extra warm clothes and water.
Winter driving hazards include black ice -- where roads that may appear dry may actually be slippery -- limited visibility, skidding danger, fog, and icy bridges and overpasses.
The ASSE advises motorists to take it especially slow when approaching intersections, off-ramps and elevated roadways – all of which may be especially icy. If your vehicle starts to skid, turn the steering into the skid and ease off the accelerator, but do not brake suddenly. Using front and rear fog lights in dense fog can improve your visibility.
Snowplows present some special challenges for motorists, because they are wide, they travel below the speed limit and the snowplow operator’s field of vision is restricted. “You may see them, but they don’t always see you," according to the ASSE. “Keep your distance and watch for sudden stops or turns. If you must pass a snow plow, use extreme caution and beware of the snow cloud" produced by the vehicle.
In the U.S., approximately 7,000 roadway deaths and 450,000 injuries are associated with weather-related driving conditions each year. Weather plays a role in 28 percent of all crashes and accounts for 19 percent of all roadway fatalities. The economic toll of weather-related deaths, injuries and delays is estimated at $42 billion per year.