Accident or Incident? Now What?

From The Experts

Having a strict training program, well developed and in-tune maintenance and HR staff, as well as organized staff meetings to address and brainstorm causes and preventative measures to learn from, can help avoid accidents from reoccurring in the future.

By John Paglia, III

It is an unfortunate part of our business, but accidents and incidents will occur over time. The key ingredient in slowing this occurrence is to have a strict safety policy in place and address the issue immediately. There are many ways to handle an accident or incident. I’ll briefly lay out a plan that could be installed if you have one that is absent. Having a strict training program, well developed and in-tune maintenance and HR staff, as well as organized staff meetings to address and brainstorm causes and preventative measures to learn from, can help avoid accidents from reoccurring in the future.

What Next?

For the sake of this article let’s discuss a common accident and assume a commercial vehicle was rear ended. What next? The first step is to address the current situation, ask questions, and record all of the information by:

  • Ensuring that emergency responders have been notified
  • Gathering as many facts as possible—photos, witness statements, truck cameras with DVR systems, etc.
  • Having a supervisor/manager respond to the scene of the accident
  • Having HR report to appropriate parties, OSHA, insurance, etc.

This is a very basic outline. I can tell you that every situation has added challenges and differences, such as who was at fault—was weather, drugs, alcohol or a personal electronic device involved in the accident from either party? However, the main points will always remain the same:

  • Keep your employees safe
  • Record all facts—verbal and photographic.
  • Follow all DOT regulations (post accident drug test and physical required).

Suspend all employees until being medically cleared to return to active duty. Even afterwards it also does not hurt to not allow them to return to driving until they have been cleared or corrected of any contributing factors that led to the accident.

A Culture of 0-0-0

We need to always learn from a mistake, even when not at fault. In cases like these, odds are the hauler was never at fault. A strong safety auditor should still be able to pick out ways to improve the safety and avoidance, even if legally the authorities found no fault. Follow these ideas to establish a culture of 0-0-0 (0-injuries-0-accidents and 0-incidents):

  • Establish a safety committee and have all levels and members of the company represented. This will give a broader range of ideas to prevent and resolve solutions. Ideas can be policy changes, route changes or even physical changes to the truck. In this case adding strobes, or even “slow down to get around stickers” could add attraction and get your truck noticed. At Florida Express Environmental, we load our trucks up with shiny paint, chrome, reflective tape, cameras, strobes and the slow down to get around stickers. Every little bit helps in my opinion.
  • Address findings with each group of employees as a unit and further brainstorm. Sometimes, the best opinions and perspectives are from the guys on the frontline day in and day out.
  • Hold a company safety meeting at a minimum of one time per month. Major issues should prompt an emergency meeting and be addressed immediately.

As stated previously, this is just a basic outline, but very important points to keep in mind. It is also an unfortunate fact that with the increase of technology, so too does the increase of recordable accidents from distracted drivers. Set policies to reduce and remove technology in your trucks, especially personal devices. There is such a push in our industry for cameras, but sometimes take a second and revert to the basics. Don’t throw more technology at a problem that I believe is caused by technology. Instead go to the basics of driving—promote, train and implement safe driving habits that are tailored to attack today’s culture. At that point, with an accumulation of other safe practices, you will see accidents, incidents and injuries reduced.

John Paglia, III is a 4th generation garbage man. Before he climbed the ranks to become Florida Express Environmental’s (Ocala, FL) General Manager, he had a successful career in college and professional athletics. John has been around the garbage industry since his car seat days. Currently, John is focused on growing his company and offering the highest level of customer service and prolonging the world that we live in today. John wakes up every day knowing the impact professional haulers have on their community is far greater than most realize. He can be reached at (352) 629-4349, e-mail John3@floridaexpress.us or visit www.floridaexpress.us.

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