Steps in Cultivating a Fleet-Wide ‘Safety Culture’
The emphasis on safety goes beyond mere policy, training, and tracking accident rates; it permeates the culture. Shared are ideas about how to cultivate a safety culture throughout an organization.
All too often, safety is relegated to numbers, policy, or just another statistic to manage. Fleet managers track accidents per million miles, the "true" cost of accidents, loss ratios, and manage repairs.
|At a Glance
Some ways fleet managers can help create a safety culture within their fleet organizations include:
- Create a formal fleet safety policy.
- Institute driver training and education.
- Consider creating a rewards and recognition program and determine how to deal with policy violations.
- Ensure senior management endorsement and participation.
Is this the best way to ensure safe driving and ultimately keep costs under control? These activities are certainly part of managing risk, but at best, are an incomplete approach. Cultivating a safety culture among drivers, managers, and throughout the company is a key element in both managing the costs of accidents and keeping drivers and passengers safe.
Taking the First Steps
The first step toward a culture of safety begins with policy. A formal fleet safety policy is a must; it serves as a blueprint for a safety culture.
Beyond merely outlining what the consequences are for unsafe driving and policy violations, the policy should begin with a clear statement of purpose. Drivers, particularly new hires, need to know they will not only be held responsible for their operation of a company vehicle, but that the company's foremost concern is for their personal safety, that of their families, colleagues, and customers.
There are a number of definitions of "safety culture." One of the more succinct is "the way safety is perceived, valued, and prioritized in an organization." Creating and nurturing a fleet safety culture always begins with the company - how it communicates the safety message, when, and how often.
It also requires that drivers (and other stakeholders in the operation of the fleet) "buy in" to that message and make it a normal part of the working day. It is important that new hires read and understand the policy, sign off on it, and make it their own. Manufacturers do this all the time; they emphasize safety on the assembly line or in the factory everywhere. There is no reason why a fleet cannot similarly stress the importance of safety behind the wheel.
An important part of ensuring that safety permeates an organization's culture is via training. Safety training can take a number of forms: behind-the-wheel, classroom, and by video or DVD. What is important about training isn't so much the content itself - most drivers know the rules of the road. The most important part training plays in the process is repetition, confirming the message of safety that begins for each driver upon hire.
Training shouldn't be an afterthought - or 15 minutes added on to the agenda at the national sales meeting. A safety culture requires that safe driving be an integral part of every meeting in which drivers participate. Drivers must be consistently reminded to do all of those actions that, if asked, they already know they should do, but in the bustle of a typical working day, don't.
Repeating training sessions can easily become boring; a little creativity helps. Don't simply ask the obvious questions or present the obvious situations. Focus on defensive driving situations rather than rote repetition of rules and regulations. Try contests, time responses, or break the group up into teams to make some of the sessions competitive. Bring in speakers, such as state and local law enforcement. These agencies are usually happy to have an officer come in and discuss safe driving, or the consequences he or she sees when it is lacking.
The more often group meetings (and conference calls) include safety training/discussion, the more likely it is that drivers will be thinking about what they've heard when they're out doing the job.
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