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The most dangerous place for workers could be their vehicle

December 10, 2018
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Workers’ compensation insurer highlights dangers of motor vehicle accidents and need for training

DENVER — Dec. 11, 2018 — Employers in Colorado should consider adding safe driver training for any employees who drive for work more than occasionally, according to leading workers’ compensation insurer Pinnacol Assurance. Pinnacol recently analyzed the collective impact of motor vehicle accidents on workers. According to Pinnacol claims data, motor vehicle accidents account for 40 percent of the workplace fatalities in Colorado, potentially because more workers in certain professions are increasingly on the road as part of their jobs.

Pinnacol, which covers about 60 percent of the businesses in the state, notes they receive approximately 1,500 motor vehicle accident-related claims every year. In the past few years, Pinnacol estimates about 40 percent of worker fatalities were caused by motor vehicle accidents, with the remaining deaths resulting from a broad array of causes.

Motor vehicle accidents can result in severe injuries that impact multiple parts of the body, including the skull, neck and head, which is also why they are the most expensive workers’ compensation claims; they cost Colorado employers $173 million in the past five years. The other concerning factor noted by Pinnacol from their analysis is that in 26 percent of fatal motor vehicle accidents, workers were ejected and may not have been wearing their seatbelts at the time of their accidents.

“We’ve seen employers in Colorado making tremendous improvements in workplace safety that ultimately keep our workforce safer and more productive, and these efforts resulted in fewer and less severe workplace injuries and illnesses,” said Jim McMillen, Pinnacol Assurance’s director of safety services. “But the consistent threat of motor vehicle accidents and fatalities is of great concern, and it’s clear employers should look to their driving employees and ensure they are properly trained and equipped to avoid accidents whenever possible.”

The most common types of workers at risk for motor vehicle accidents were health care workers, truckers and noncommercial drivers (like chauffeurs and messengers), followed by auto servicers and police officers. Clerical employees are also at great risk. “Whether it’s health workers driving to clinic sites or patient homes or office workers simply driving across town to a meeting or for a work errand, it’s clear employees in nonprofessional driving roles are driving more often,” continued McMillen. “We are also distracted by technology more than ever, and this confluence of factors is important for employers to manage.”  

Pinnacol also noted 42 percent of motor vehicle claims involve drivers with less than one year on the job and that accidents most commonly occur in the summer months, between July and September.  

McMillen stresses that some of these accidents could be avoided with more safety training and adherence. “Defensive driving training should be part of any risk management program in which employees must drive for work, even if they’re not considered professional drivers or are driving their personal vehicles. The truth is, most of us could stand to take more driving training, and we should always, under all circumstances, put our smartphones away and wear seatbelts.”

Pinnacol safety consultants recommend all employees who drive as part of their job receive driver training. They also recommend employers consider driver performance management technology as the most effective strategy for fleet drivers or for individual vehicles.

Check out Pinnacol’s Motor Vehicle Accident profile for a more comprehensive list of safe driving resources for employers.

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