March 1, 2014

Manage driving risk simply and effectively


As a young man working in construction, in what seems like a lifetime ago, I was being trained to drive the loaded down company five-ton, with loaded down float-trailer in tow. My boss, the owner of the company, was concerned that I did not fully understand how long it would take to stop the ensemble. Accordingly, in the middle of an otherwise empty stretch of back road, he instructed me to lock up the brakes and stop as quickly as I could. It was quite the learning experience. I have been extremely careful since then to assess what it means to ‘follow too closely,’ based on both the conditions and on what I am driving.

Years later, I sat on a panel with Cam Woolley, addressing health, safety and insurance issues during Landscape Ontario’s Congress. At that time, Cam was with the Ontario Provincial Police; now he reports on traffic and safety for CP24 in Toronto. Cam made the point that, when it comes to traffic mishaps, the word “accident” should be stricken from our vocabulary. This, Cam rightly explained, was because accidents are unforeseeable events that are beyond our immediate control. Traffic mishaps, he pointed out, are almost always preventable. They do not happen by accident: they happen because of poor (but intentional) decisions, or the failure to take proper care while on the road.

Why, you might ask, would we take the time to discuss traffic mishaps in this column? Surely we could find a more important area to focus on? The answer might surprise you.

Strategies to reduce premiums
The risk management committee of the Canadian Nursery and Landscape Association (CNLA) is, among other things, working with CNLA’s insurance broker and insurer in an effort to reduce the insurance premiums which CNLA members pay. We have been looking at volume pricing and assessment through HortProtect, at education and training, at enhanced relationships with other interested stake-holders and at the ways we manage and process actual claims. In this regard, we have been looking at some obvious and serious risks: slip-and-fall risks faced by winter-maintenance contractors; workplace injuries; liabilities associated with design errors and defects; operation of tools, equipment and machinery; and consequences of improper workmanship.

Yet we are told that vehicle-related claims represent by far the single most significant factor in determining insurance premiums for industry members. These claims, we are told, represent the largest claim category and the largest category of insurance pay-outs. These claims are almost entirely manageable and preventable through proper driver training and better oversight of employees who drive company vehicles.

The direct costs associated with these claims will typically include vehicle, property, or cargo damages, towing costs, personal injuries and their associated emergency services and medical costs, worker’s compensation costs, insurance deductibles and surcharges and legal fees. To these must be added indirect costs which can include productivity loss of the vehicle(s), employee down time incurred due to injury or in preparing for litigation, additional staffing costs incurred in that regard, retraining costs and even damage to reputation or loss of customers or sales attributable to the interruption to your business.

Most CNLA members are sufficiently aware and respectful of workplace safety requirements to ensure that employees who use potentially dangerous equipment, such as skid steers, chain saws or diamond blades, are properly trained and use best practices in that regard. Many CNLA members also have procedures in place to ensure that the training is updated and that the best practices are actually followed in the field. Yet the most often used, and most dangerous, pieces of equipment in the business arsenal is generally the trucks put on the road. For some reason, many employers simply presume that if the employee has the requisite licence, training is complete and oversight is not required. This is an inaccurate assumption which costs CNLA members money in both the short and long run — and increases the premiums paid by CNLA members right across the board.

Human error cause of most collisions
We are told that the average cost of a collision in Ontario in 2004 was an incredible $77,000, and that human error is the cause of 90 per cent of traffic accidents, and that driver attitude accounts for 90 per cent of these mistakes. Rear-end collisions are the most common highway collision, and most collisions occur during good weather.

This column is focused on risk management in the landscape construction and horticulture industries. In this regard, we can’t stress enough that where CNLA members have employees driving employer vehicles (or driving on company time), sound risk management should include driver education programs as well as policies and procedures directed at ensuring that good driving practices are implemented. This is particularly true where employees will be driving trucks that may be loaded down with cargo or pulling trailers.

CNLA’s broker of record, Marsh Canada, offers structured training programs through the HortProtect program. These are geared towards informing and reinforcing safe driving practices, creating awareness of consequences, and influencing correct driving decisions. An online training platform has been developed — a comprehensive  system which provides flexible reporting and simple administration and program management  designed to allow the employer to monitor the courses which have been taken, along with individual results. Marsh Canada’s online training platform are available to all green industry companies in Canada; CNLA members receive preferential pricing.

For more information contact Luke Pallister of Marsh, at One way or another, however, safe driving education, policies and procedures should become a part of your business — wherever your business involves employees on the road.
Robert Kennaley has a construction background and practices construction law in Toronto and Simcoe, Ont. He can be reached at 416-368-2522, at, or on LinkedIn. This material is for information purposes and is not intended to provide legal advice in relation to any particular situation. Readers who have concerns about any particular circumstance are encouraged to seek independent legal advice in that regard.