If you employ drivers, they probably recognize the importance of seat belts. But do they go so far as to consider them personal protective equipment (PPE)? Today, we’re providing training information regarding seat belt use that is valuable not just for those who drive for a living but for any of your employees who drive—which is probably just about everyone.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations at 49 CFR 392.16 state: “A CMV which has a seat belt assembly installed at the driver’s seat shall not be driven unless the driver has properly restrained himself or herself with the seat belt assembly.” The Federal Motor Vehicle Standards go further to specify how to properly wear seat belts that are applicable to passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses (49 CFR 571.208 to 571.210).
According to Lieutenant Donald Bridge, Jr. with the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles Commercial Vehicle Safety Division, how the seat belt fits matters the most. They are the most significant safety device ever invented. In fact, they are your drivers’ PPE. If fitted and deployed correctly, they can save your drivers’ lives.
- They provide impact protection.
- They absorb crash forces.
- They keep you from being thrown from the vehicle.
- They hold you in place while the vehicle collapses around your “safe” zone.
In simple terms, seat belts help keep your driver in his or her place, in control, and in a better position to avoid an injury. If need be, it is his or her personal protective equipment (PPE). Seat belts can keep your driver from being knocked unconscious, improving his or her chances of escape.
Get a Good Fit
Just as with other PPE, proper fit is crucial for maximum protection. Effectiveness and comfort decrease when your driver’s seat belt is worn improperly. Train your drivers in the following things that they should not do.
DO NOT allow the buckle to be located in the stomach or abdomen area.
DO NOT wear the shoulder straps under your arms or behind your back.
DO NOT wear the shoulder belt too snug, or let it rub against your neck.
DO NOT allow the belt to become too loose as you travel. Sometimes, as you travel, additional slack may occur. For example, when you lean forward, the seat belt retractor may leave too much slack when you sit back into your normal seated position. If the lap and/or shoulder belts are too loose, they may not be able to hold you in place during a crash.
Here’s what to train them to do:
DO wear the lap belt low on the lap, 2 to 4 inches below the waist and against the thighs. The strong bones of the hips can absorb the forces experienced in a crash.
DO wear the shoulder straps across the center of the chest and the center of the shoulder.
To correct a shoulder belt that is too snug or that rubs against your neck:
Bring the belt snugly over your body, pull the shoulder belt out at least 5 inches, and let it return to your chest.
Pull down on the shoulder belt only as far as necessary to ease the pressure and let it go. The shoulder belt will then stay in position.
Every so often, get rid of additional slack by pulling the belt out at least 5 inches and letting go. Slack is automatically removed. Check your owner’s manual for detailed instructions on the amount of slack considered safe for that model.
Your drivers should also be trained to inspect their seat belts just as they perform regular inspections of many equipment items on their vehicles, such as brakes and tires. Encourage them to make it a part of their routine to periodically examine their seat belt equipment to be sure it still functions correctly and that there are no worn or broken components that either need repair or replacement.