Pia Perttula, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Road accidents
- 3 Road accident risk prevention
- 3.1 Legislation
- 3.2 Traffic environment and visibility
- 3.3 Ergonomic working conditions and health of drivers
- 3.4 Technical measures
- 3.5 Organisational measures
- 3.5.1 Risk assessment and organisation policy
- 3.5.2 Training
- 3.5.3 Managing time pressure and fatigue
- 3.5.4 Challenges of monotonous work
- 3.5.5 Avoiding simultaneous tasks while driving
- 3.5.6 Workplace policy on driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- 3.5.7 Violence
- 3.5.8 Ensuring the ability to help – safely
- 3.6 Investigating road accidents
- 4 References
- 5 Links for further reading
Road safety is important for all road users. Every year more than one million people are injured in road accidents in Europe. In recent years, the number of vehicles on roads has increased, as has the number of goods transported by road. This makes road safety even more important.
Estimations reveal that over half of all fatal work accidents in Europe are road accidents, i.e. crashes while commuting or work-related driving. Employers can influence their workers' road safety by providing adequate resources for driving during, to, or from work. Road safety in general can be increased through three main channels: road users, the traffic environment, and the condition of the vehicles on the roads.
Road accidents are undesired events that lead to injury or death. These deaths and injuries result in significant social and economic costs . Although the number of fatalities on the roads has decreased in the past few years, over a million people are still involved in road accidents. About 26,000 people died in road accidents in Europe(EU-28)in 2014. More than half of road fatalities involve people inside motor vehicles; the rest are either pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists 
Deaths and injuries caused by road accidents result in significant social and economic costs. Furthermore many occupational fatalities occur in road traffic and transportation crashes. In addition to professional drivers, other workers, for whom driving is not their core activity, are also frequently required to travel by road, e.g. all commuting workers also use the road.
Road users pose risks to each other. Young people, between 15 and 24 years old, face the largest risk in traffic: they make up 11% of the Population but 17% of all road fatalities . Pedestrians, cyclists, moped riders and motorcyclists have a higher injury rate per kilometre of travel than other road users.
Work-related accidents on the road may involve any traffic type. Different traffic types face different risks on the road, and when they are all in the same space, these risks increase.
Human error is often seen as the cause of road accidents. While it may not be possible to stop people from making mistakes, these mistakes need not result in fatalities. The traffic environment must be developed in such a way that human errors do not lead to serious consequences 
Road accident risk prevention
Road safety means safety for all road users. Accident risks on the road, during both work-related driving and leisure time driving, involve risks to the driver, passengers and other road users. Today's continuously changing traffic environment requires constant alertness on the part of road users . Speeding, drunk driving and failure to wear a seat belt are the three main reasons for road accidents .
Traffic regulations are intended to decrease the risk of accidents. Improving road safety involves dealing with issues related to road users, the traffic environment, and the condition of vehicles. Investigating road accidents can also prevent further accidents. Work-related road safety should be managed by integrating it into the arrangements for managing overall health and safety at work. Accident prevention on roads includes factors related to the traffic environment, vehicles and road users whether this is work or leisure related.
Work-related road safety should be managed by integrating it into the employers' arrangements for managing overall health and safety at work. Work-related traffic accidents can be prevented through technical measures and organisational measures at workplaces, and adequate training. In addition, investigating road accidents can prevent future accidents.
As employers are responsible for the occupational safety of their workers, the following should be included in the workplace's driving policy:
- Training for employees (safe driving, first aid, loading of vehicles, how to report accidents and near misses on the road, etc.)
- Appropriate, safe vehicles with appropriate safety devices
- Clarification of responsibilities for the maintenance of vehicles and safety devices
- Rules prohibiting phone conversations while driving
- Rules prohibiting driving under the influence
- Schedules made loose enough for safe driving and flexibility of working time
- Rules on taking breaks while travelling on the road
- A process for gathering and handling accident reports, near miss reports and safety notices from the road.
Workers in the road transport sector are protected by European directives on occupational safety and health, which are implemented in Member State legislation. Directive 89/391/EU (framework directive) sets the basic principles for risk prevention. The road transport sector is covered by various directives and regulations on driving and road transport (for example the regulation 561/2006/EC on driving times, breaks and rest periods for drivers engaged in the carriage of goods and passengers) .
Regulations require that all occupants of all motor vehicles wear seatbelts on both front and rear seats . Employers should point out to their workers that it is the driver's responsibility to ensure that all passengers wear seatbelts. Bus drivers should also inform passengers that seatbelts should be worn in buses.
Traffic environment and visibility
Weather is often a factor involved in road accidents. Changes in weather conditions can alter the road surface, which can increase the risk of skidding, thus increasing the distance needed to stop a vehicle. Icy road surfaces also increase risks for pedestrians.
Inadequate visibility is another risk factor on the road. This can be due to: the weather, darkness, covered or broken vehicle windows, lack of lights or reflectors. Other visibility risks are road users' changed or weakened eyesight.
Streetlights increase the ability to see the traffic environment in darkness, and this is why companies should ensure that roads leading to the workplace are well lit. Encouraging pedestrians or cyclists to wear reflective clothing increases their visibility, thus increasing their safety on the road.
Ergonomic working conditions and health of drivers
Professional drivers have little control over their ergonomic working conditions. As they are exposed to prolonged sitting, they face the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, shoulders and back. Professional drivers are also exposed to vibration produced by the vehicle. Whole body vibration and prolonged sitting or standing are both widespread problems that increase the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (especially back disorders). Because of this, employers should ensure that professional drivers' cabins are adequately designed. Ergonomics, such as the design of the seat and other equipment should be considered, and appropriate advice on driving posture should be provided.
Employers play an important role in promoting health at the workplace, and occupational health services monitor the health of an organisation's employees. Employers must conduct suitable risk assessments and put in place all 'reasonable practicable' measures to ensure that work related journeys are safe, staff are fit and are competent to drive safely and the vehicles used are fit for purposes and in safe condition. When deciding on a driver, the nature of work-time travelling tasks should be checked and possible workers' diseases considered . Drivers who suffer from e.g. cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, or epilepsy should undergo regular medical examinations and ocular tests, as should ageing drivers. Employers must ensure that people who drive for work are aware that they must meet the minimum legal eyesight standards and encourage them to have their sight tested regularly.
Safety devices and aspects
When work tasks require road travel, the technical condition of vehicles is important. Employers should provide vehicles that are equipped with safety devices (i.e. airbags, electronic stability control, blind spot monitoring, lane support systems, speed alerts, adaptive headlights systems, etc.). In a four-wheel vehicle, seatbelts can decrease the risk of fatal injuries in a crash.
Wearing a helmet decreases the risk of head injuries while cycling, roller-skating or motorcycling. Several countries have legislation requiring cyclists to wear helmets. Cycling helmets can protect the head when properly used. If workplaces provide bicycles for their workers, the condition of the bicycles should be checked regularly. Employers should also take safety aspects into consideration when buying any vehicles for their companies; all new car models must pass certain safety tests before they are bought for use by an organisation. EuroNCAP provides up-to-date and comprehensive online information regarding the safety of cars for occupant protection 
Regular checks and maintenance
In addition to regular general checks, workers should be taught to check the condition of their vehicle before starting to drive. If the vehicle is damaged or fails the check, the driver should have repairs done before setting out. The driver should ensure that there is good visibility from inside the vehicle by cleaning the windows or removing snow before starting to drive.
Maintaining safe vehicles is crucial for road safety. Employers should provide procedures to ensure that vehicles are maintained, and tests for motor vehicle safety should be performed annually. As tyres are important, especially when braking, they must meet safety requirements. They should be checked before driving and replaced by new ones when they show signs of wear. Tyre pressure needs to be checked regularly as well. Seasonal changes in road surfaces may necessitate different tyres in summer than in winter.
Many goods are transported on roads. In order to avoid accidents caused by shifting materials it is essential to fix the load in such a way that it will not be shed, even in sudden braking situations. The weight of the load should not exceed the capacity of the vehicle. Employers should ensure that their workers are aware of the correct way of fixing loads and the weight limits of their vehicles  .
Risk assessment and organisation policy
A workplace's risk assessment should include road traffic risks. Employers should ensure that the vehicle used at work is adapted according to the people and/or loads to be transported. Employers must conduct suitable risk assessments and put in place measures to ensure that work related journeys are safe, staff are fit and are competent to drive safely and that vehicles are fit-for-purpose and in a safe condition .
Employers must make sure that workers and managers are aware of the organisations' policy of safe driving. Following speeding regulations means that one should never drive faster than road conditions safely allow, and everyone should obey speed limits at all times (including variable limits and temporary limits at road works). Employers should ensure that journey schedules, distances and plans allow sufficient time for drivers to complete their journeys (including rest breaks and taking into account foreseeable weather and traffic conditions).
Customers should be made aware of the company's road safety commitment and be encouraged to take a greater interest in road safety (i.e. avoid making any concessions that might adversely affect road safety, such as changes to driving hours and waiting times or requests to overload vehicles).
The employer can ensure that workers have the prerequisites for safe road travel by providing training. Training of drivers of different vehicle types and different work situations increases their awareness of risks. Different vehicle types demand different training, but traffic regulations are the same for all road users. It is important that all road users know and adhere to traffic regulations. Awareness of traffic safety can be maintained and even increased by traffic safety campaigns.
Training of road users should begin early and they should also be taught safe road habits (as keeping the distance, non-aggressive driving, etc.). These habits should be repeated to workers if their work requires driving, and training should be updated regularly in order to keep road safety in mind.
Managing time pressure and fatigue
In addition to general road accident risks, professional drivers face risks caused by work organisational stressors, i.e. just-in-time management and client pressure. Time pressure can lead to risky situations on roads; careless behaviour and speeding. High speed increases the risk of serious, even fatal, road crashes. Fatigue is another well-known traffic accident risk. When drivers do not get enough sleep, or undergo a long period of wakefulness, they are even more tired.
Transport workers face long working days and weeks and have varying working hours (in the evening, shifts, at night, on weekends). Taxi and bus drivers, since they work alone and at night and have cash in the vehicle face the risk of violence: clients may have drunk excessive amounts of alcohol or have taken drugs.
Employers can improve work-time road safety by allowing working time flexibility. This enables employees to avoid travelling during rush hours. In order to avoid haste on the road, routes and schedules for transportation or road travel should be planned so that it is possible to take breaks and adhere to speed limits. Different weather and rush hour conditions have to be taken into account when planning schedules. Time pressure may cause speeding, and also increases workers' stress.
An employer can decrease drivers' fatigue by planning schedules in such a way that enables drivers to take breaks. Drivers can prevent fatigue by setting out on a journey after a good rest. Working hours and periods of rest are regulated for drivers of heavy goods vehicles. These regulations are uniform throughout the European Union and in the European Economic Area. They limit the time that drivers are allowed to work to a maximum of nine hours per day, with the option of working ten hours per day for a maximum of two days a week. After six consecutive working days, drivers are obliged to take a weekly rest period of at least 45 consecutive hours of freely disposed time . The risk of fatigue also exists for non-professional car drivers, and should be taken into consideration after a long working day and possibly a long drive home (commuter traffic).
Challenges of monotonous work
Driving is a monotonous task, especially on motorways. At the same time however, it requires a high degree of concentration. Drivers often drive faster on motorways than on rural roads and high speed increases the risk of crashing. When increasing speed, a driver should be even more alert. The fact that driving is a monotonous task may decrease the drivers’ attention to the traffic environment, and this can lower the reaction time of the driver.
Even though employers are responsible for the occupational safety of their workers, drivers themselves are in a key position to prevent road accidents. They should adhere to speed limits and traffic regulations, as speeding increases the risk of fatal car crashes. Employers should establish a written safety policy and instructions for the drivers. Employer should emphasise that:
- staff should never drive faster than road conditions safely allow,
- should obey speed limits at all times (including variable limits and temporary limits at roadworks) and
- that persistent failure to do so will be treated as a serious matter .
Avoiding simultaneous tasks while driving
Professional drivers may need to use communication devices while driving. As carrying out other tasks while driving distracts the driver's attention, this poses a risk. The use of hand-held mobile phones while driving is prohibited in many European countries. However, there is research to suggest that talking on the phone with “hands-free” systems while driving also poses significant risk, and is possibly more dangerous than drink driving . Drivers should avoid being involved in complex conversations while driving; they need to concentrate hard on continuously changing traffic conditions. Employers should ban the use of mobile phones while driving. There are already examples on companies adopting this policy . The rules of speaking on the phone while driving should be added to work procedures. If speaking on the phone is essential on the road, workers should be encouraged to stop the vehicle until the telephone conversation is over, even if the driver is using a hand-free device. Furthermore, other road users' behaviour may be unpredictable, which can result in accidents unless the driver's full attention is on the traffic.
Workplace policy on driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs poses a serious risk not only to the driver, but also to passengers and other road users. Alcohol and drugs impair judgement, making drivers more likely to take risks. Substance abuse slows reactions, increases stopping distances, affects judgement of speed and distance, and reduces the field of vision.
Employers should stress that workers, as well as managers, must not drive under the influence of drugs, alcohol or medicine. Workmates should not enter a vehicle if they suspect that the driver is under the influence of these substances. Technical control devices can be of help; Alcohol interlocks are being introduced in some countries in order to prevent the vehicle starting if the driver has been drinking.
Third-party violence is an occupational risk in the transport sector, especially for drivers who work in passenger transport Services . Changes in work organisation such as increased lone working, growing work intensity, direct contact with clients, increased client demands for services, and conflicting tasks of transport workers are all contributing factors to the rise in violent incidents  .
The employer should train employees in managing difficult situations with customers , and provide equipments for getting help.
Ensuring the ability to help – safely
An accident on the road may result in additional crashes if vehicles drive too close to each other. Road safety can be increased in post-crash situations. If there has been a road accident, it is essential that those who stop – both just a passer-by and professional emergency personnel – to help the victims are wearing visible, preferably reflective clothing and that they park their own vehicles so that they do not cause any harm to other road users. Employers should provide first aid training for their workers so that they can act if accidents occur. Although today help arrives faster than a few decades ago because of mobile phones, first aid provided by the first people to arrive at the accident scene might save the lives of victims.
Investigating road accidents
The traffic environment is one of the main issues to be considered in road safety. Basically, roads should be developed so that there is enough space for different traffic users. For example, having different lanes for cyclists and pedestrians increases safety. Pelican crossings, flyovers or tunnels make it safer to cross the road.
Employees should be encouraged to report all work-related road incidents without fear that punitive action will be taken against them. Accident and near miss reports provide information regarding places in which dangers exist. Inadequate maintenance of roads and road surfaces may lead to road accidents. Employers can improve their workers' road safety by collecting reports on places that pose particular risks to commuters and professional drivers, and by investigating road accidents and afterwards providing feedback and safety suggestions to those responsible for the traffic environment (for example, to municipal authorities).
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Links for further reading
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