Work Related Road Safety: A Community Safety Centred Approach
Whatever region of the UK our staff happen to be working in or maybe just travelling through we consider ourselves part of that community. As such we have a responsibility to behave in a certain way that respects those communities.
Ensuring minimal impacts and good behaviour is a fundamental part of our ‘Community Safety Centred Approach’, particularly in relation to work related road safety. In fact, as a leading road safety contractor, building and operating over 200 specialist road marking vehicles, we have a fundamental responsibility to consider the social and environmental impact on our communities.
Whilst planning our approach, we have to understand the wider picture and consider what many statistics tell us.
For instance, 147 people were killed in the workplace during 2018/19. However this is only a small part of the overall picture as in the same period 1770 people were killed in road accidents and 36% of those involved, were people driving for work.
Additionally, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) report that >200 people die every year from cancers attributable to poor air quality, principally related to diesel engines in the work environment and another 30/40,000 people (pick your own number) prematurely die every year as a result of poor air quality. It was not right to think about these statistics in silos and we recognise the need for a holistic approach.
The improvement journey started many years ago with the publication of the Transport for London (TfL) ‘Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety’ (CLOCS) report produced by TRL. WJ along with many responsible members of the highways community realised that it was time to be proactive and improve our industry.
For WJ, whilst providing cycle routes in London and throughout the UK, it became apparent that good management of Work Related Road Risk (WRRR) and Vulnerable Road User (VRU) safety was particularly important to our operations, our workforce, our clients and the communities we serve.
The CLOCS report highlighted the inequality of outcome in road accidents for VRU groups, an inequality requiring action to overcome the national Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) statistics that are still on the rise for these groups.
As a cyclist or a motorcyclist you are still over fifty times more likely to become a KSI statistic if you are involved in a road accident than you are as a car, van or truck driver.
This is something we can address through the vehicles that we build, the drivers we train and the behaviours we exhibit.
Policies and procedures are a starting point. Followed by prescribed maintenance regimes, driver licencing, health checks, CPC and the use of telematics. We then move on to ‘Voluntary’ Standards Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS), CLOCS and Driving for Better Business (DfBB) which together form a valuable triumvirate covering off compliance, people, planet and the Work Related Road Safety drivers for business management and change.
Our own fleet of specialist road marking vehicles are fundamental to delivery, yet they are the largest most hazardous tools we possess. Unlike many other tools, the use and impacts are not confined by site boundaries. The appreciation and importance of this fact cannot be overstated.
We are proud to design and build our own road marking vehicles and fully comply to the FORS requirements. At WJ, not only do we fit under run bars, class V and V1 mirrors, audible turn left signalling, proximity indicators, near side cameras and relevant signage, we go way beyond those basic requirements to provide continual safety together with environmental and efficiency improvements.
Our developments have sometimes been achieved by small incremental steps, such as adding automatic braking systems, 360 cameras and tyre pressure monitoring features. However, changes in vehicle design are mainly driven by the needs of our own workforce, clients, the wider industry and the communities we serve. To understand and provide the right balance it is essential to be a ground-breaking, inclusive, progressive and outward looking organisation. We tap into this rich vein of experience by using our Williams Conveyor, a proactive system to engage and manage those ideas.
Overall, the WJ investment in a large modern fleet has exceeded £20 Million within the last 5 years, which is not insignificant for any company and simply unheard of for a road marking company. Our fleet of immaculately maintained trucks with all the latest road safety technology shows that financial commitment but that in itself is just not enough.
Regrettably, many drivers still routinely speed and text whilst driving. As they continue to do so without mishap the behaviour becomes normalised to them. Yet speed is very often a significant factor in accidents and texting at the wheel is more unsafe than driving whilst over the legal alcohol limit. Attitudes to VRU’s suffer a similar path when cyclists and motorcyclists are considered homogenous groups and routinely thought of as hazardous law breakers
Vehicles are often perceived wrongly as offering a personal space to move around in, rather than viewing the highway as a shared space for the whole community. Bad and aggressive behaviours then develop and go unchecked which engrains the deviant normalisation of antisocial driving, often with tragic consequences.
To improve our performance we have committed to empower, properly train and motivate our workforce. This has helped us build a vibrant interdependent safety culture to ensure a safe and sustainable operation. Delivery of extensive training to high standards, has been achieved by establishing the WJ Training Academy with three full time professional driving instructors.
A new WJ employee undertakes a weeklong residential training course. As part of this they learn about FORS, CLOCS and DfBB requirements, vehicle checks, banksman, LGV/Night-time worker medical and then undergo a full driving assessment regardless of qualifications.
Influencing workforce behaviours and establishing an embedded safety culture, where people look out for one another, has been the most difficult challenge for our business. The fact is that we made little progress until we had changed our thinking.
To help us think differently, WJ recruited the services of Professor Damian Hughes, an international speaker and bestselling author who combines his practical and academic background within sport, organisational development and change psychology, to help organisations and teams to create a high performing culture. Professor Hughes explained in simple, engaging terms how our minds work, why we behave in the way we do and how we can change behaviours to create a safer, higher performing operation.
We also worked in collaboration with our trade body; the Road Safety Markings Association to set up a mock trial using actors and professional lawyers to add impact, where a driver reverses over and kills a colleague as a result of poor planning and behaviour. The consequences are followed right through the legal process with a jury of staff elected to give a verdict and its consequent denouncement at the hands of a judge. Once again engaging and thought provoking to highlight that poor behaviours have a consequence to people, their families and wider community.
The aim, through training, is to consolidate a culture of good behaviour by empowering staff to continually improve, maximise their potential and develop new skills. Our Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) principals also help to encourage positive behaviours and enhance the inclusive community safety approach which works well in the context of driving.
There are of course the environmental aspects to our community safety approach, particularly in respect to the highlighted air quality statistics. Transport produces around 27% of UK emissions with highways contributing the vast majority of that, so it was important for us to reduce emissions within our operations.
These issues can be mitigated through innovation, better maintenance, improved traffic engineering solutions, efficient programming or just choosing the right time to work to minimise congestion.
For example we were sending two trucks, each with two preheaters, to sites in London because there is a requirement for white, yellow and red markings. By building trucks with triple preheater systems on Euro 6 chassis we only needed one truck thereby reducing our emissions by more than 50%. Less trucks, less journeys, less accidents, less traffic management, less congestion, massively lower emissions, less impact on the community and improved efficiency.
Upskilling the workforce through the WJ Training Academy and upgrading the fleet through WJ Engineering has been complimented by WJ’s Product manufacturing division who have worked with their supply chain to reduce the carbon footprint of their materials by as much as 50% through the use of renewable carbon sequestering bio resins instead of hydrocarbons. As we all now know Carbon reduction is an imperative part of the circular economy so growing sustainable bio resins which sequester CO2 rather than pumping hydrocarbons out of the ground works.
We are making progress through our Community Safety Centred approach, thought through and backed by investment in people, engineering, research and development alongside environmental accountability. If we rely solely on traditional policing and accreditation methods we are lost, responsible behaviour and recognising our interdependence with the wider community is how we must move forward.
WJ have challenged everyone in our business to be innovators and to ‘think exceptional’ about work related road safety, this has led us to pursuing a holistic community, people and environment safety system not limited by arbitrary site boundaries.