December 2020 Safety Coach: Lights Twinkle, Safety Sparkles

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Safety Coach
Stepping Up Your Game

Everyone is a pedestrian. In nearly every circumstance, transportation safety starts with pedestrian safety. We walk to the car and drive to work. We walk to the bus station or the train depot. We walk through the airport, check in at the terminal and then board a flight. We walk to lunch. We walk around the block. We walk in a parking lot, a work zone, our neighborhood.

We walk to the vehicle we drive while we are working – a bus, a semi or a delivery truck. At this time of year, we walk to and from vehicles after attending holiday gatherings and may also walk near a roadway as we go from location to location or to meet a ride service vehicle.

This is a good time for safety managers to include pedestrian safety and issues related to impaired walking in their safety talks. These talks also can include distraction and fatigue, because both are impairing while you walk.

Research indicates pedestrians are included in more than 15% of all traffic fatalities across the U.S., and these numbers continue to climb. Alcohol is a factor – for the driver or the pedestrian – in nearly half of traffic crashes that result in pedestrian fatalities. Most pedestrian deaths occur on Saturdays. An overwhelming majority of incidents occur at night and outside of intersections.

Risks associated with impaired walking mirror those of impaired driving and can include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Clouded judgment
  • Feelings of drowsiness or sedation
  • Reduced reaction time

Alcohol combined with other drugs, including over-the-counter medications, increases safety risks even further. People of all ages and from all walks of life are vulnerable. Here are some walking safety tips to share with your employees. Be creative. Share one each day for a week in an e-blast:

  • Be predictable; follow the rules of the road and obey traffic signs and signals
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever possible, cross streets at crosswalks, and look left, right and left again before crossing the street
  • Never assume drivers see you; make eye contact with drivers as they approach at intersections before entering the crosswalk
  • Be visible at all times; wear bright clothing during the day, wear reflective materials at night and use a headlamp or flashlight to illuminate your path
  • Stay alert; avoid cellphone use and wearing earbuds
  • Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways or backing up in parking lots
  • Avoid alcohol and drug impairment when walking

Center a safety talk around this brief video from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Walking Safely. Learn more about what others are doing to create safer streets, and find out how to use a unique tool to conduct a walking safety audit.

Road safety tactic: Screening for sleep apnea

Tailgate Talk
Consequences of Fatigue

People generally do not think that being tired behind the wheel is a risk, but drowsy driving is similar to drunk driving.

Your body needs adequate sleep on a daily basis. The more hours of sleep you miss, the harder it is for you to think and perform well. Lack of sleep can make you less alert and affect your coordination, judgment and reaction time while driving. Studies have shown that going too long without sleep can impair your ability to drive in the same way as drinking too much alcohol.

Being awake for at least 18 hours is the same as someone having a blood-alcohol content of 0.05%. Being awake for at least 24 hours is equal to having a blood-alcohol content of 0.10%. Additionally, drowsiness increases the effect of even low amounts of alcohol.

Here are two things you can do at your workplace to prevent crash injuries, reduce exposure to liability and save money:

  • Provide education on the importance of sleep, sleep disorders and the consequences of fatigue
  • Implement a sleep apnea screening program

In America, fatigue is estimated to cost employers more than $130 billion a year in health-related lost productivity. More than 70 million people in the U.S. suffer from a sleep disorder. Research shows chronic sleep-deprivation can cause depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses.

Further, three in 10 adults fall short of reaching the recommended sleep totals to achieve peak performance levels (seven to nine hours). We know you need to be on top of your game whenever you’re behind the wheel. In fact, you are three times more likely to crash if you are fatigued.

I was reminded of the importance of sleep education and health screenings recently after reading National Transportation Safety Board Member Tom Chapman’s piece in Safety Compass. A doctor told him he was at risk for obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder involving episodes of airway obstruction and periods of not breathing while sleeping.

Chapman agreed to participate in a sleep study. He learned he did have obstructive sleep apnea, so he started receiving treatments. He said the treatments have made a difference in the quality of his sleep and his overall wellness.

His story is not unique. Doctors estimate 6% to 17% of adults experience moderate to severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea. When commercial drivers receive treatment, studies show crash incidents decrease. Learn more in Chapman’s piece: Screening Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers for Obstructive Sleep Apnea Can Save Lives.

Use these free resources to help you boost your fatigue efforts:

As the holidays draw nearer, people likely are running at full speed, from sun up to sun down. Show employees how much you care about their safety by providing sleep education and promoting physical fitness. You would not allow a friend to drive impaired. You should not allow that same friend to drive when tired or drowsy. There is no need to expose anyone to such extraordinary safety risks.