HSA to research accident data on working drivers

03 February 2008 By Nicola Cooke
Source: Sunday Business Post

The Health & Safety Authority (HSA) is commissioning research on accident statistics involving vehicles at work and people driving for work. The HSA is joining forces with the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and gardai to increase awareness of accidents involving work vehicles. No such statistics currently exist in Ireland, but one in three accidents in Britain involve people driving for work.

Employers, unions and employee groups will be interviewed as part of the HSA research. The results are expected before June, and the authority’s inspectors will use these results for a targeted inspection programme of vehicle fleets.

The authority is beginning to review health and safety management in the vehicle transport sector by carrying out 500 inspections this year. These will concentrate on fleet risk assessments while travelling on public roads.

The HSA is also developing a series of regional seminars on workplace transport safety, including information on reducing driving risks. A spokesman for the RSA confirmed that, along with the HSA and the gardai, it would be focusing on workplace road safety.  ‘‘We will be making employers aware of their legal responsibilities to their employees who drive for a living, or as part of their jobs, and making them aware of road safety issues in general,” he said.

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 states that ‘‘every employer shall identify the hazards . . . under his or her control, assess the risks presented by those hazards and be in possession of a written assessment [of these]”.

Meanwhile, a new sample survey by Rigney Dolphin, on behalf of the company DriverFocus, has found that four in ten Irish businesses do not currently include driving for work clauses in their health and safety management policies.

The survey was based on 100 firms - drawn from a list of Ireland’s top 1,000 companies - who have employees who drive for work. A similar number, 40 per cent, did not perceive driving for work as a risk in their company.

DriverFocus managing director Ron McNamara said there was ‘‘a lot of diversity of opinion among companies, in terms of assessing driving for work’’.

'Irish companies neglect driver safety'

Wednesday 30 January 2008, 14:46

Source: http://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/story/?nID=46260

Irish fleet managers are to be targeted in a new campaign by the country’s Road Safety Authority (RSA) after it emerged that some of country’s largest companies are failing to carry out even the most basic checks on their drivers.

Sixty per cent of the companies surveyed in a new report admitted that they did not even recognise driving for work as a risk.

In addition, more than half said they did not assess new drivers and 16% admitted that they do not even bother to check drivers have a valid licence.

Now the Irish RSA said it will target fleet managers of all Irish companies, as well as employers in a campaign aimed at improving the safety of Irish business drivers.

While there are no statistics to indicate Irish company drivers are any more dangerous than their UK counterparts, the limited statistics that are available suggest that the risk facing business drivers there is similar to here.

There are almost 2.3 million vehicles on the Republic’s roads, and estimates put the number of company vehicles at more than 700,000.

The RSA’s move to target fleet managers follows the publication of a report by Dublin-based DriverFocus, which found that while the Irish law is clear that businesses must manage road risk, many are failing to do so.

“These are some of the biggest companies in Ireland and many are multinationals,” explained Ron McNamara, managing director of DriverFocus. “Yet what we are seeing from this survey is a lack of perceived risk when it comes to their drivers.”

While there is no imminent introduction of a Corporate Manslaughter Act to focus the minds of Irish fleet managers, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 still states that every employer in Ireland must identify the hazards under his or her control and assess the risks presented by those hazards.

Despite this, the report found that 42% of the companies surveyed did not even include driving for work clauses in their health and safety management policies.

And almost one-third said they never provide driver training to employees.

Sunday Business Post, DriverFocus FleetFit launch

Identifying drivers' weaknesses 
The Sunday Business Post
11 March 2007  By Paula McGovern
FleetFit, a new internet-based driver improvement service, was launched in late February by Irish-owned company Driver Focus.

The first of its kind in Ireland, Fleetfit is an internationally validated solution enabling fleet managers to predict which drivers are most likely to be involved in a road accident. It allows them to provide personalised training to help prevent such an outcome. The patented programme is a product of CogniFit, an international company based in Israel that combines technology with recent advances in neural and cognitive science to create a range of software training products.
CogniFit was founded in 1999 by Professor Shlomo Breznitz, a retired academic. It has developed technology to improve driver skills and behaviour in many countries.

Over the past five to ten years, breakthroughs have occurred in the realm of cognitive science, said Yossi Mazel, CogniFit's vice-president of sales and marketing. Scanning technologies have greatly enhanced our understanding of brain function and led to the realisation that brain structure and hence functionality can be altered. CogniFit has harnessed these insights by building software that evaluates and improves cognitive brain function.

CogniFits FleetFit products are available in seven countries, including the US, Canada, Britain, Finland, France and New Zealand, and they are set to travel further. In the US, for example, the FleetFit product is offered by CEI Group, a global provider of accident management and driver safety and risk management services for self-insured vehicle fleets.

The market is always looking for new solutions, and new technologies are always welcome when were talking about safer roads and saving lives, said Mazel.

Ron McNamara, managing director of Driver Focus, heard about CogniFit in 2005. He researched the companys products and the potential market for them in Ireland.

More than half the vehicles sold in Ireland are fleet vehicles, said McNamara. Its one of the main drivers of the market. Also, there is increasingly a duty of care placed on employers to ensure employees are adequately trained and have sufficient health and safety resources. While its not mandatory at the moment for employers to train their drivers, this tool could be used to increase safety and cut costs.

Fleets of all sizes can use FleetFit technology. A company can use it in one of two ways; as a tool that is part of a recruitment process; or to decide if a driver needs more training. FleetFit can accurately measure informationprocessing and improve it so that drivers will make faster, more accurate and better quality decisions while driving, said McNamara.

FleetFit comprises three components: an assessment section; a training section; and ongoing progress reports and analysis. A 35-minute web-based assessment requires participants, using a keyboard and mouse, to perform a series of exercises associated with the various cognitive skills employed in driving. It comprises 19 tasks, measuring 12 cognitive and psychomotor skills such as focused attention, visual scanning, hand-eye coordination, reaction time, risk taking, obeying regulations and several personality traits required for driving.

The assessment profile analyses each drivers strengths and weaknesses and pinpoints where improvement is needed.The feedback can also serve as a basis for assigning behind-the-wheel training.

The technology represents a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to accidents, according to McNamara. The bottom line is that it is a method to both measure the risk that drivers face and to do something about this risk, he said.

To date, a fleet company may go to a commercial driver-training organisation for remedial training if the company has been involved in a few accidents. We are suggesting that there is another way of doing it.

Priced at 80 per assessment, DriverFocus has had the backing and support of the Irish government and road safety agencies. Speaking at the recent launch of the service in the Irish market, Minister for Transport Martin Cullen said: Initiatives to improve the cognitive abilities of all drivers deserve further attention".

Objective driver assessment combined with personalised training promotes safer driving behaviour, reduces accidents and saves lives. It also supports the case for reducing fleet insurance premiums at renewal time, and demonstrates a corporate commitment to health and safety and corporate social responsibility.

My own background is in IT and risk management, so providing a web-based application on risk managements isn't a million miles away, said McNamara.


HRD (Human Resource Development) Magazine

'Advancing Driver Skills' - December 2007Ron McNamara explains how a blended learning approach to driver training cuts ccosts and reduces the risk of accidents among people who drive for work

How’s your driving? Like many people, you may consider yourself a pretty good driver, even above average, yet it is generally accepted that the standard of driving on Irish roads leaves a lot to be desired.

Recent changes to the driving test; enforcement of rules around driving on a provisional license next June; the establishment of the Road Safety Authority in 2006 and reduction of blood-alcohol levels for drivers, together mark the beginning of a new era of safer driving in Ireland. One area now expected to receive more attention is driving for work. In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive estimates that one in three road fatalities and serious injuries are work-related. In 2003, it issued guidance for organisations to manage Work Related Road Safety (WRRS).

Earlier this year, the UK Department for Transport prioritised driving forwork alongside young drivers and motorcyclists as deserving special attention. What about here? In 2006, there were 365 fatalities on Irish roads. If the UK figures apply here, this suggests that over 100 people lost their lives as a result of driving for work last year, or someone else driving for work.

This raises important questions for any organisation with employees on the road, for example, technicians, sales reps, truck drivers, managers, consultants etc. Among the issues to be addressed are:
• Does our duty of care requirement under Health & Safety law apply to driving?
• Driving is risky, so do we need to risk assess our drivers and vehicles?
• 95% of road accidents are due to ‘human error’ – as an employer, do we focus enough on educating our drivers about good driving practice?
• What are companies in Ireland and elsewhere doing to manage work-related road safety and where can I get information on bestpractice?*

One of the most accepted ways of reducing risks is by introducing appropriate training into a culturally supportive environment.
The advantages to organisations of investing in driver training may include:
• Economic – it cuts costs, for example, of repairs, insurance, training and asset downtime
• Meets ‘duty of care’ requirements under Health & Safety legislation
• Reduces risks to the business, by proactively avoiding accidents
• Enhances the brand through active Corporate Social Responsibility as it demonstrates a commitment to social values
• Proactively improves the wellbeing of drivers.

But what kind of training is most typical? Many organisations have ‘behind-the-wheel’ driver training with staff developing advanced driving skills for various vehicle types and organisations like Musgraves with hundreds of SuperValu and Centra trucks on the road run an annual truck driving competition to refresh skills in a fun way. However, researchshows that when behind the wheel training is blended with appropriate cognitive training, learning is maximised.

As readers realise, cognitive skills are the mental processes required to complete everyday tasks and to interact effectively with the world around us. One of the best ways to build cognitive reserves is to engage in activities that are relatively new, and preclude automatic processing. For example, when driving a new car in a new location, the driving involves much more deliberate attention than driving your own car every day.

Novelty, the natural opposite of routine, poses important challenges to the brain and contributes to cognitive well-being.

One such programme that blends the hands-on with the cognitive training is FleetFit™, launched last year by DriverFocus, an Irish company providing technology-based products that enhance drivers’ skills and wellbeing. By partnering with Cognifit – the world leader in web-based assessment and training of cognitive skills – the company launched a localised version of FleetFit™ here last February.

The FleetFit™ program helps to identify those drivers in the workplace who are ‘accidents-waiting-to-happen’; details individual training requirements and delivers personalised training and re-assessment.

The e-learning features of the program help to ‘blend’ and maximize learning with the behind the wheel driver training. FleetFit™ is also used by Irish companies:
• To prioritise ‘hands-on’ training (or retraining)
• To minimize the need to take drivers off the road for annual assessment
• As part of existing recruitment / induction programmes.

FleetFit™ is designed specifically to assess and train driving-related cognitive skills. These information processing abilities include: visual search, speed estimation, short term memory, divided attention, risk-taking, reaction time and eye-hand coordination. The program consists of cognitive assessment, training and real-time, online reporting/analyses.

Cognitive assessment
FleetFit™ Assessment is a 30 minute web-based program that requires drivers, using a mouse and keyboard, to perform a series of tasks measuring twelve driving-related cognitive skills associated with safer driving. The results rank the driver’s cognitive and psychomotor skills and how each compares against the norm – factoring in age, gender, drivingexperience etc – on a scale of 5 to 1.

Cognitive training
Based on the assessment, each driver can then receive a personalised training programme matching his/her cognitive profile. FleetFit’s™cognitive training library consists of 24 x 20 minute sessions focusing on improving weaker cognitive skills while maintaining the level of the stronger ones. The training is repeatedly adapted both in its degree of difficulty and content to maximise the benefit and maintain the motivation of the driver.

Reporting & analysis
Training managers (and other nominated managers), receive immediate online reports on the cognitive skill-levels of their drivers and how they subsequently perform with ongoing re-assessment. This helps ensure that appropriate training is delivered and removes unnecessary costs of a ‘blanket training’ approach.

Innovative and proven
FleetFit™ and the US-patented technology behind it have been validated both scientifically and in various markets around the world since 2002.

For example, in a study of 168 instructors conducted at a leading Canadian driving school, FleetFit™ proved to be 88% to 90% accurate in predicting which drivers would be involved in accidents. Of the 29 instructors who were involved in an accident, FleetFit accurately identified 26 of them and 122 of the 139 who were accident-free.

BT – Europe’s largest commercial fleet – has used FleetFit this year to assess the driving-related skills of drivers as part of its annual ‘Driver of the Year’ competition. Four thousand drivers participated in the event that involved knowledge and cognitive assessment as well as comprehensive road and safety challenges for the 30 finalists.

* Useful sites on work-related road safety