When the National Safety Council released a report in May 2013 which said that one out of every four car accidents was due to distracted driving because of smartphone use, most people immediately thought of drivers on highways and city streets. But when you think about construction accidents involving motor vehicles, you should also be thinking about distracted driving.
Distracted driving is the top cause of fatalities on construction sites all over the country, and the problem is much worse than distracted truck or van drivers. The challenges of distracted driving continue to change and evolve, and that is why construction work site safety policies should also continue to evolve. A construction company that does not do its part to rid the industry of distracted driving could be looking at fines, higher insurance premiums, and lawsuits that may put the company out of business.
Dangers Associated With Distracted Driving On Construction sites
The problem with distracted driving on construction sites is that it extends to vehicles that are much more dangerous than the family car. While there are plenty of pick-up trucks and vans around construction sites with distracted drivers, there are also large dump trucks, cranes, and plenty of heavy gear that require manual operation. A distracted driver behind the wheel of a dump truck could mean disaster for a construction site.
When operators of heavy equipment are distracted while driving, there is the likelihood that people could be seriously injured and the property damage could be extensive. In this way, distracted driving creates new construction hazards that had never existed before. The precision required to remain safe on many work sites is lost when distracted driving becomes a bigger problem. Anyone who gets behind the wheel of any construction vehicle has the potential to create a serious work hazard by being a distracted driver.
What Is Causing The Distractions?
Smartphones are becoming standard equipment on construction sites because of their versatility and ease of use. Supervisors can talk to workers that are on the other side of a construction site and even share updated project drawings with the push of a button. Smartphones allow emergency communication to be more precise, and they can also be loaded with apps that help with the management of the project.
However, when a supervisor is trying to send a drawing over his smartphone while driving, then that becomes a problem. When a person has to contact a crane operator and relay a message while the operator is in the middle of doing something, then someone could get hurt.
The other problem is that much of the distracted driving being done on construction sites is the same type of driving being done on the streets. Workers are texting each other while driving which is problematic. Furthermore, many accidents are caused by workers playing online games while driving including virtual reality games such as Pokemon Go. The problem is growing and construction companies need to address the issue to prevent further accidents.
Preventing Distractive Behaviors And Patterns
Sometimes all it takes to get construction companies to take an issue seriously is the ability for OSHA to issue fines, and that is exactly what has happened with this problem. If construction companies want to avoid serious OSHA citations and fines for allowing distracted driving, then they need to improve their policies and update their training.
The focus for construction companies is reducing accidents, keeping insurance premiums down, and keeping workers safe. It is difficult to regulate all smartphone use on a construction site because, as was mentioned, site supervisors and workers use smartphones to stay in touch. But texting while driving and playing any kind of games while operating a vehicle on company time can certainly be regulated.
Distracted driving has been an issue of growing concern for some time, but now it has reached a problematic status on construction sites as well. As more accidents occur and more workers are injured, it is up to construction companies to develop and enforce policies that make work sites safer. With the pending threat of OSHA fines and other financial consequences, many construction companies have already started the proactive task of addressing distracted driving in the construction industry.