The time has come for the business world to openly commit to occupational road safety. These are key concepts, especially in today’s society, where mobility —forgive the redundancy— is unstoppable in so many companies. There is no stopping or going back, even in these times of teleworking and hyperconnectivity in different sectors. Not to mention those who, given the characteristics of their sector, have no choice but to get behind the wheel. This is the case of buses, ambulances, taxis, cargo carriers, couriers and parcel services, for example.
“It could be summarized as the set of actions and measures aimed at promoting safety in the movement of workers, both within their working day and during their commute,” explains Fidel Hurtado, Director of Occupational Risk Prevention of the Haxelia Group in Murcia and Alicante.The expert argues that “the risk of a traffic accident is considered potentially high, assessing the severity and probability, as with any other risk.” And he provides ad hoc data on the situation in Spain: “In 2021, 10.9% of workplace accidents were traffic accidents; and, when it comes to fatal work accidents, 29.1% were traffic accidents.” According to a report by Asepeyo and the CNAE Foundation for that year, work-related road accidents increased by 18% and mortality in this type of accident rose by 38%. With this very prosaic balance, “the importance and seriousness of the issue can be clearly observed, but this is not reflected in the awareness of the companies,” Hurtado says, “They perceive it as a secondary issue within occupational risks prevention.”
Prevention, rigor, and awareness
Concern for road safety generates great interest in different social spheres and in the media around the world. “Every year, thousands of traffic accidents take place, with serious human and economic repercussions that, in many cases, could have been avoided by applying preventive measures,” they tell us at the working group of the National Commission for Safety and Health at Work (CNSST).
And, in this sense, so-called occupational road safety is revealed as a crucial parameter: “The actions range from ergonomics, taking care of posture, the backrest, the headrest, the lumbar zone, the hands on the wheel, etc., to the very dangers inherent in driving at an inappropriate speed, the consumption of alcohol or the conditions of the vehicle”, lists Fidel Hurtado, also a collaborator of Life Labor Platform, a project that promotes good practices and humanism as the engine of business excellence, personal well-being and productivity.
Ultimately, there is an unwritten law: those who work at ease and in dignified circumstances usually perform better. On the other hand, it is necessary not to let quality control and rigor drop. Anyone who must drive regularly for their job should be certain that their car is properly maintained and has passed periodic inspections, the ITV (vehicle technical inspection) and, therefore, that it is as safe as possible. “We must also consider the risks associated with environmental conditions and carry out appropriate measures, such as avoiding driving at night, checking headlights and tires, as well as being extra vigilant when there is snow or strong wind, among other precautions. Of course, a key factor is the state of the roads and traffic signs,” argues the director of Occupational Risk Prevention of the Haxelia Group of Murcia and Alicante. He suggests that companies continually update these preventive documents, as it is well known that it is better to prevent accidents before they happen.
“The European Union offers an electronic guide on the risks related to occupational road safety “
The human factor and responsibility
However, as in life itself —and as in the Graham Greene novel—, it is advisable to keep in mind the human factor. “We often forget about our personal conditions, such as stress, fatigue and lack of sleep,” says the specialist. We must mention distractions with mobile phones and other devices, which are as significant as ever. Companies must periodically train their workforce to demand and demonstrate the relevance of occupational road safety. We must not let our guard down.
And if the setbacks and mishaps persist, it may be time to conduct a psychosocial assessment. This is what experts recommend: “As in other types of accidents, good emotional health is essential to reduce risks. The human factor plays a huge part,” says Fidel Hurtado. Therefore, the experience, motivation and physical and mental state of employees are key.
A 2019 RACE report warned that occupational road accidents in Spain amount to €2,000 million per year, highlighting in this regard —not without surprise— that “only 27% of workers receive training in road safety, despite the fact that there are more than 69,000 work-related road accidents a year that result in sick leave.” A call to action, without delay. It is time to promote greater collective and individual responsibility. A scenario that is not far from other countries in the world, where they have specific regulations with the same objective.
“Occupational road safety is the set of actions and measures aimed at promoting safety in the transit of workers “
A global concern
There are no half measures here. “The prevention of work-related road accidents would reduce the number of victims. Therefore, the development of a culture of road safety in the work environment contributes to increasing the safety of workers,” states the website of the General Directorate of Traffic (DGT). In fact, in 2013 the 1st Ibero-American Congress on Occupational Risk Prevention and Road Safety (Presevilab) was organized in Peru, before taking place in Paraguay in 2016 and in Bolivia in 2023. These summits seek to improve conditions in Ibero-American countries in this matter.
Following these events, the director of the Foundation for Road Safety (Fesvial), Javier Llamazares, has sometimes stressed the shared effort “both with the DGT and with the European Union” to focus on actions “on regulations, risk factors and good practices with conferences and studies, nationally and internationally. At Fesvial they emphasize that occupational traffic accidents in Europe, according to data from recent years, ” represent a cost of 2% of GDP, but in Latin American countries this cost rises to 4%.” A global concern, which in the European Union has led to an electronic guide on the risks related to occupational road safety. It is called VeSafe, is managed by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work and leaves no room for doubt. Work road safety: unavoidable concepts that every company must vigorously defend.