You are driving to a work meeting. The car in front of you suddenly slows down and starts weaving from side to side, crossing dangerously into the next lane. After a few seconds of this erratic movement, the car shifts smoothly back to its lane, moving with the flow of traffic. You pull up next to this vehicle at the next red light, and glance over. He is texting on his cell phone. Driver distraction is one of the leading causes of traffic accidents. Learn why we need to pay closer attention to this growing issue, and what employers and workers can do.
For many drivers, operating a car or truck may seem second nature, whether it's for personal or work use. However, no matter what the level of experience or comfort, driving requires your full attention. Using and talking on a cell phone takes a large amount of that attention. But with the popularity of these devices, texting, talking and e-mailing on the go are increasingly becoming factors in collisions.
Increased risk of collisions
Drivers who use cell phones are four times more likely to be involved in a collision than those who are focused on the road. Crashes can happen almost instantly. Taking your eyes off the road for even just two seconds doubles your risk of being in a collision. At a speed of 60 km/hr, that means you have travelled over 30 metres without looking at the road in front of you. If you send a text message at highway speed, you will have likely traveled the length of a football field without looking at the road.
Keep in mind that using a cell telephone is just one of many distractions a driver faces. Other activities that can take our attention off the road include eating, drinking, smoking, reading, applying makeup, watching objects outside the vehicle, adjusting controls, and programming navigational devices. Driver distraction is a factor in about 4 million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year.
What the law says in Canada
All provinces, along with Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories, have some form of cell phone or distracted driving legislation in place. Alberta goes a step further and restricts drivers from reading printed materials, writing, and personal grooming. Offences can result in fines and demerit points, and in some provinces, fines rise with the number of offences. View a list of legislation across Canada.
While hands-free devices are permitted by law (with the exception of novice drivers in British Columbia and Saskatchewan), drivers using these devices are still less focused on what's going on around them, and tend to react more slowly to situations.
What employers can do
If workers are involved in an accident while using a mobile device, employers could face significant liability. The potential for injury to employees or bystanders is also a major concern for employers. For these reasons, many Canadian employers in both the private and public sectors have taken the step of establishing policies that prohibit workers from using cell phones and similar devices while operating a company vehicle or operating their own vehicle while on company business.
In addition, employers can:
- educate workers on the risks of distracted driving
- instruct workers to have a voicemail message that indicates they are driving and cannot respond to calls
- ensure work schedules are established that allow employees to focus on driving and not their work while operating a vehicle
- install hands-free electronic device capability on company-owned devices
Tips to eliminate or minimize distractions
- Leave plenty of time to get to your destination.
- Familiarize yourself with the route and directions.
- Pre-program your route on your GPS device.
- Listen to your GPS device; don't look at it.
- Put any reading materials or distracting objects away in the trunk.
- Allow calls to go to voicemail. If you must make or take a call, pull over and park at a safe location.
- Keep your eyes and mind on the road.
- Keep two hands on the wheel.
Technology solutions to combat distracted driving
Ironically, apps have recently been developed that involve using cell phones to fight driver distraction. For example, if a vehicle exceeds a certain speed, sending and receiving of text messages is disabled and an auto response is relayed to the sender. Another solution requires you to switch the app on or your car will not start. Once the app is turned on, the driver will not be able to send or receive texts, calls or emails, or use social media. If the driver does turn off the app while driving, a message can be sent to a third party (such as an employer or insurance company).
Even cars are starting to come equipped with technology to combat distracted driving. One major North American automaker is planning to use eye-and face-tracking in their vehicles to help drivers keep their attention on the road, and another already has a driver-facing camera that monitors the eyelids to see if the driver is alert and focused.
In an effort to change behaviours, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) has developed a "Leave the Phone Alone" campaign to promote awareness of the risks involved with distracted driving. By taking an online pledge, drivers can show and share their support for distraction-free driving.
Driving is a necessary part of the job for many Canadian workers. Help keep them and those who share the road safe by educating them about the distractions of cell phones and other electronic devices.
- Distracted Driving, Canadian Automobile Association (CAA)
- Driving Tips - Using Cellular Telephones and Other Devices, CCOHS OSH Answers
- Distracted Driving, RCMP
- Safe Driving - It's Your Call, Canada Safety Council
- Road Safety in Canada, Transport Canada
Developed in partnership with Health Canada
The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is changing as Canadians prepare to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). To help educate workers about the upcoming changes, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has released a new e-course, offered free of charge to the first 100,000 participants, for up to one year. CCOHS partnered with the Workplace Hazardous Materials Bureau of Health Canada (formerly the National Office of WHMIS) to develop the course with funding by Health Canada.
The goal of GHS is to have a common set of rules for classifying hazardous products, common rules for labels, and a standard format for safety data sheets (SDSs). The e-course, WHMIS (After GHS) for Workers, will help familiarize workers in Canada with the new WHMIS system and how it will be used in workplaces, helping to protect themselves and their co-workers from hazardous products.
The course is suitable for workers in organizations of all sizes, in industries and occupations where hazardous products are found. It features case studies, quizzes, and the option to "ask a question", and is available in English and French.
Employers who want to track that their workers have successfully completed the e-course can purchase a multi-user account with automated tracking.
See more free courses on GHS from CCOHS and Health Canada
Health and Safety To Go
This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcasts offer tips for safe travels, and feature an encore presentation of steps you can take to prevent the flu.
Feature Podcast: 10 Tips for Safe Travels
CCOHS offers ten tips to stay safe, secure and healthy when travelling for work.
The podcast runs 5:46 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore Podcast: Preventing the Flu: What You Can Do
It's easy to catch the flu if you're not careful. CCOHS shares some helpful tips on how you can prevent catching (or spreading) the flu this season.
The podcast runs 4:49 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
Is work stressing your employees out? If so, they're not alone. In Canada, over a quarter of working adults report feeling highly stressed at work. Factors such as excessive demands, lack of control, insecure job arrangements, inadequate resources and support, and workplace bullying and harassment can all took their toll on the well-being of workers.
In this free webinar hosted by CCOHS, John Oudyk of the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) takes a closer look at ways to identify and measure these psychosocial hazards, and outlines mental injury prevention tools and resources to help your organization take action on workplace stress.
Gather in your meeting room with your co-workers for the event or watch it on your own at your computer. Anyone interested in understanding workplace stress better will find this webinar of interest as well as health and safety professionals and committee members, managers, supervisors, and employers.
About the presenter
As an Occupational Hygienist for the last 25 years with the Hamilton Clinic of the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, John has measured all kinds of hazards in workplaces ranging from offices to foundries. In the 1990's he began to measure psychosocial hazards in office settings and among firefighters. In 2009 he started working with the Mental Injuries Tool group to devise a questionnaire to help workplace parties assess psychosocial hazards at work. John has a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo and Masters in Health Research Methods from the McMaster University. He has an appointment as an Assistant Professor (part-time) in the Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department.
Webinar: Taking Action on Workplace Stress
Presenter: John Oudyk, Occupational Hygienist, OHCOW
When: Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Time: 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EDT
Register for this event.
Workplace Health & Safety Matters
Workplace Health and Safety Matters is the blog of Steve Horvath, President and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Just back from the World Congress on Health and Safety, Steve shared his reflections in a recent blog post.
One of the most meaningful events organized at the triennial World Congress on Health and Safety was the establishment of the first International Youth Congress. It was my honour to be involved with such a valuable initiative and to have the opportunity to introduce these young participants to the World Congress at the symposium I co-chaired and helped organize.
The youth were exposed to health and safety issues and principles through education and interactive exercises directed by Christopher Preuße of DGUV (German Social Accident Insurance) in Germany. For me, it was reassuring to dialogue with our future leaders and to hear about the issues that are moulding the way we will be responding to a new generation of concerns and expectations. Not only are their ideas shaped by their generation, but also by a factor that industry to date has failed to respond to - their diversity. Industry has categorized them all as "Gen Y" and assumed generalizations in addressing their needs. We must recognize that this generation preparing to enter the workforce is far more diverse than the present workforce. In fact, just amongst the group that we had attending the Youth Congress, were students from countries such as Azerbaijan, U.K. and Japan - all with different perspectives and experiences to share, but with a common goal of a better future for their peers.
The challenge to employers is recognizing the immense potential of this diversity and reassessing their "one size fits all" assumptions to occupational health and safety programs for new employees.
My interactions with this group of committed students left me reassured that the solutions to tomorrow's problems lay within today's youth. Giving them a forum to share their experiences with other youth from all parts of the world will be the catalyst for innovative change in the future. That is why I was pleased to hear commitment to hold a second International Youth Congress from all those involved.
Read Steve's blog, Workplace Health and Safety Matters.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2015, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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