Advanced technologies are revolutionizing the fleets of tomorrow, today. Telemetrics, GPS asset tracking, IoT mobility management all provide BIG data to make fleets safer and more productive. With safety and efficiency being the primary objectives of fleet operations and the documented impact on the company's bottom line, new technology deserves a lot of your attention.
With all the benefits that emerging technologies provide to encourage safe driving behaviors, it may be easy to overlook basic safety and ergonomic accessories of the work vehicle when designing an upfit. Ken Gillies at GE Capital Fleet Services commented, "Improving safety for the driver while on the road, as well as when their work truck is on-site and working, go hand-in-hand." It could be a costly mistake to give operators a less-than-ergonomic vehicle if it leads to workers' comp injury and expensive litigation.
Work trucks are successful when they meet the operator's needs based on how they utilize their vehicle. The design focuses on ease of use and operator safety. However, it is impossible to design a truck to accommodate 100% of the users, as each of us is uniquely made. The right truck and van accessories can overcome that challenge.
What are the most common preventable injuries in fleets? What are some essential cost-effective vehicle accessories that can reduce risk, limit liability, and improve safety?
“Overexertion injuries account for 34% of lost time worker comp claims,” according to Previsor Insurance. Operators get in and out of their vehicles frequently; they should NOT have to exert extra energy to do it. Often this issue is unaddressed because factory running boards are part of an expensive option package not chosen. The truck or van needs to be safe for the operator. Luckily, the entry and exit of a vehicle is one of the most straightforward problems to solve. Consider adding economic hoop style steps with a large flat step area and anti-slip surface for secure footing. They will also ensure worker comfort.
Some other specific recommendations given by James Muiter, Reading Truck Group, are:
- Three points of contact: using two hands and one foot, or one hand and two feet to support the body while mounting and dismounting a vehicle. Extra-long grab handles that are reachable from the ground and retracting (moveable) steps can help.
- Other ergonomic accessories such as drop-down ladder racks and grab handles ensure operator safety and reduce insurance claims due to operator strain.
- To maximize efficiency, choose lighted accessories that allow operators to work day or night, and respond to emergency calls when necessary.
The number 1 and number 2 workers' comp claims are slips & falls, and strains. Utilizing ergonomic-friendly equipment suitable for the job could prevent many of these injuries. Whether it is a service body, aerial lift, van, or trailer, look for accessories with the following features to integrate into your upfit:
- Steps with Safety Treads ─ Whether open tread to allow the elements to pass through or a die-cast, the thing they can not be is smooth. Step treads must have an aggressive non-slip tread surface design for secure footing.
- Rear steps and grab handles to make it easier to get in and out of the vehicle's rear.
- Side door access on vans can enable the user to work inside the body during inclement weather; however, it is safety-critical to include a side step, fixed or hide-away, and grab handles.
- Easy access to tools and materials for operators limits the amount of time and risk of injury from getting in and out of the truck's bed. Retractable (stow-away) steps allow for safe and efficient access to the top, side, and rear of any service body truck to reduce fatigue-induced errors and back injury risk.
- Another often overlooked option are hitch mounts or flat mount foldable steps that allow for comfortable exit and entry into the truck's bed or on to the trailer for any worker. For an added layer of safety, look for illuminated step options or high-visibility finishes for 24-hour operations.
Including the right accessories on any vehicle or trailer will reduce worker's comp costs, improve productivity, and reduce preventable injuries caused by overexertion. Although technology commands significant attention, don't lose focus on the importance that vehicle accessories play in enhancing the safety and accessibility of your fleet for your operators.