How Do You Achieve Safety Compliance?
By Randall C. Resch
I'm always watching the actions of tow operators to see what they're doing that's acceptable and what they're doing wrong. I consider it a self-test in towing and recovery awareness and make it a learning lesson in arrival assessment to see how I would have responded to the same or similar situation.
On one such occasion near Louisville, Ky., a tower had his carrier tilted and readied to winch a vehicle onto the carrier. His customer was standing on the traffic-side talking on his phone. At the moment I drove past, I immediately observed a number of infractions to the way I felt this tow operator should have been conducting safe load techniques.
1. Tower was working the traffic-side controls
2. Customer not secured; he was also on the traffic-side
3. Tower was not wearing an ANSI III vest
4. Tower also was talking on his cellphone at same time loading operations were taking place
These are typical problems that are commonly demonstrated by America's towers. I believe they occur for three specific reasons.
One, the towman might be a one-owner company who makes his own rules as he goes along. Two, the towman is away from company management. Thirdly, there's no written company policy and procedure that prohibits these kinds of towman violations.
When I got back to my office, a quick internet search turned up a tow operator fatality with exactly the same details.
In February 2005, a 34-year-old Michigan tow operator was attempting to load a vehicle onto his carrier. As he stood at the traffic side controls, he allegedly was talking on his cellphone while in process of working the winch.
In that one moment of time, a DUI left the roadway and traveled into the right-hand shoulder first striking the disabled vehicle and continuing on to strike the tow operator.
The tower was pronounced dead at the scene.
Every company policy and procedure manual or employee handbook must specifically address actions by tow operators. Policy narratives must state the company's requirements as it applies to a driver and an employee work actions.
Beyond what's written in PPMs and employee handbooks, management should be constantly monitoring tow operator safety. Safety is a primary topic that starts at the top of company ownership and should be aggressively passed down through every employee and tow operator. In order to gain company-wide compliance, management must:
1. Ensure that the attitude of consistent and ongoing safety is solid and required
2. Write and deliver effective safety policy
3. Demand safety compliance of all employees
4. Hold all employees accountable
5. Initiate disciplinary actions to employees who fail to adhere to company policies and procedures
While it's known that not all employees can be entrusted to follow policy to the letter, gaining compliance is a function for managers and supervisors to instill in subordinates. But, if yours is a small company, you must take time to see what your drivers are doing when they're in the field.
Every tower, regardless of position must be aware of company policy and procedure. A big part of that is setting the tone through setting an example that exudes safety. If it's not clearly written in the company rules and guidelines, how can you expect compliance?Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line. Randall was inducted into the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame in 2014.