Op/Ed: Driving at work is dangerous, we can make it safer
By Trace Acres
Here’s something that may surprise you: Driving may be the most dangerous thing most of us do in our job, even if we do it just once in a while.
Don’t think you drive at work? You may need to think again. Sure, you may not be a courier or delivery person or have “driver” in your job title or job description. But you may get behind the wheel to run office errands, call on clients, or travel to off-site meetings. All of these are work-related driving, whether you do them occasionally, part time, or all the time.
Here’s why it matters: Work-related crashes are the leading cause of traumatic workplace death in BC.
From 2017-2021, WorkSafeBC statistics show an average of 20 people were killed in work-related vehicle crashes annually and another 1,400 were injured seriously enough to miss work. That’s the equivalent of almost one driver being injured or killed every work day. What a huge loss for families, friends, co-workers, and communities.
Yet a recent Road Safety at Work survey found that only 11% of employers and 26% of employees believed driving for work is dangerous.
Changing that attitude can help prevent injuries and save lives. Most crashes are preventable if employers provide training, education, and supervision, and workers follow safe driving procedures. Crashes aren’t inevitable, they aren’t always the fault of the other driver, and they’re certainly not a cost of doing business.
Preventing crashes is, in fact, smart business. Drivers who stay safe and healthy are available for work, easing staff shortages. An organizational culture that focuses on road safety can be an advantage in recruiting and retaining drivers, who see that they are valued. Claims costs, repair bills, and insurance premiums can be reduced.
The bottom line here is that road safety for workers is about making sure people return home after every shift healthy and safe.
It’s an issue that affects hundreds of thousands of people in B.C. ICBC statistics show nearly 625,000 passenger and commercial vehicles in the province were insured for business use in 2022. The number of vehicles used for work may be much higher, though, because many people who drive their own vehicle on the job occasionally insure it for pleasure use. The designation allows them to use the vehicle for up to six days per month for business or delivery.
Our mission at Road Safety at Work is to help build a culture of work-related road safety by educating, empowering, and engaging B.C. road users. It starts with knowledge and mindset.
First, we need to understand that vehicles are workplaces under WorkSafeBC regulations. It doesn’t matter whether the employer or an employee owns them. When they’re used for work, they need to meet health and safety standards for workplaces. And road safety needs to be part of the organization’s health and safety program.
Second, we need to pay attention to all the work-related driving that gets done in a shift. Remember the rule: If an employee gets behind the wheel for any work-related reason, they’re driving for work.
Many, many jobs involve some time on the road – including many we don’t usually associate with driving. That’s reflected in the occupations with most work-related crashes over the last five years. On the list you’ll find commercial truck drivers, couriers, and transit operators but you’ll also see the following:
Nurse aides, orderlies, and other patient service associates
Social and community service workers
Construction trades helpers and labourers
Third, we need to accept that driving on the job is dangerous. Driving too fast for the conditions, impairment, and fatigue are the leading causes of crashes in B.C. They don’t stop when we’re behind the wheel for work.
Fourth, we need to recognize that nearly all crashes can be prevented with the right measures in place. Employers have both a legal and moral responsibility to make safety a priority. Employees have safety responsibilities too, including the right (it’s also an obligation) to refuse unsafe work.
If we change the way we think, we can change the way we behave. By seeing the dangers of work-related driving, we can eliminate work-related deaths and injuries on B.C. roads.
Trace Acres is Program Director for Road Safety at Work, a WorkSafeBC-funded initiative managed by the Justice Institute of BC. For more information, visit RoadSafetyAtWork.ca.